Yellow in UK
The first couple of stages of the Tour de France are always contentious.
It is the beginning of the race, no one has any time advantages over anyone else, and these first stages are usually flat or time trial stages (individual races against the clock). This means that there is opportunity for riders who would never normally win the Tour de France (sprinters, time trialists, domestiques, newer riders) to win a stage and wear yellow for a day... and then lose it almost immediately.
It goes without saying that any flat stage is an opportunity for a sprinter, therefore it is not uncommon for sprinters to win stages. But for sprinters to win the yellow jersey? That could happen at the beginning of the Tour with everyone’s overall time starting at zero. (Each stage winner also receives a stuffed lion courtesy of tour sponsor Crédit Lyonnais.)
The 101st Tour de France begins with three stages in the United Kingdom. The first stage starts in Leeds, goes through York, Harrogate, and Cambridge, with the third stage ending in London.
With two of the three UK stages being flat, expectations for sprinter and UK native Mark Cavendish (aka Manx Missile, Manxy, Manx Express, or Cav) are high – particularly during the second stage, which finishes in Harrogate, the hometown of Cav’s mum. “I still have a lot of family there and it gives me an opportunity to wear the yellow jersey in front of my fans, so to dream of that is a big thing," Cavendish told the Telegraph.
However, with this year’s Tour de France start in the UK, and so many British riders in the Tour – including the British team Sky, headed by Christopher Froome – the stakes for the maillot jaune have never been higher.
"I was bowled over at the support we had in France so I can only imagine what it is going to be like over in Yorkshire," said Froome, clearly anticipating a lot of Sky fan support in the UK.
Who will UK fans flock to – the defending champion Chris Froome, or the “fastest man in the world” Mark Cavendish? The smart money says that the sprinter beats the GC contender in a race for the finish line, but being that Froome has a bit of a reputation as a ruthless competitor, even against his own teammates, I would not be surprised if Cav were to wake up to a severed stuffed lion’s head in his bed. Welcome to the 2014 Tour de France.
The 2014 Tour de France kicks off Saturday, July 5 and runs through July 27. For ongoing coverage, see austinchronicle.com/daily/sports.