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Wiggins and Cavendish eye glory in Tour de France

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Brits upbeat over Team Sky's Tour chances

The 97th Tour de France gets under way on Saturday with British duo Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish both eyeing glory on the roads of France.

Wiggins, fourth last year, is hoping to contend for overall victory while Cavendish is targeting the green jersey awarded to the points winner.

"With the way everything's gone form-wise, I couldn't be in a better position," said 30-year-old Wiggins.

Reigning champion Alberto Contador is favourite to secure victory in Paris.

The race begins with a short prologue in the Dutch city of Rotterdam ahead of 20 stages that will cover 3,642km (2,263 miles) before finishing in the French capital.

Spaniard Contador is chasing a third win, while seven-time champion Lance Armstrong will ride his final Tour.

Team Sky rider Wiggins finished fourth while riding for Garmin last year, behind third-placed Armstrong and runner-up Andy Schleck.

Personally, I'd love to win a stage, I'm indifferent to which one

British rider David Millar

And he could be in the leader's yellow jersey after Saturday's 8.9km (5.5 mile) prologue, although his focus must shift to the mountains, where many minutes will be gained and lost, if he is to mount a serious challenge for the general classification.

"Without bad luck and everything I think I'll get the result I want," he added.

"Contador's still the strong favourite - he has to be after the season he's had - but no-one's unbeatable.

"Lance is coming into form at just the right time.

"It is a hard race but if it's going to be hard for me, you can guarantee it's going to be hard for everyone else."

Wiggins is one of eight Brits in the 197-strong field; Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas are the other two in Team Sky's nine-man team.

Matt Slater's blog

Cavendish, who rides for HTC-Columbia, will be looking to win the green points jersey, which is usually won by a sprinter.

He won six stages on last year's Tour, to add to the four he won in 2008, but was beaten by Norway's Thor Hushovd in the points category after a disqualification on stage 14 put paid to his chances.

"Six stage wins should secure the green jersey, but I didn't get it last year so nothing is certain," he told BBC Sport.

"We can minimise the chances of losing and if we do that, we have a high percentage chance of winning it."

David Millar, the last Brit to wear the yellow jersey, in 2000, rides for Garmin, while Charly Wegelius (Lotto) and debutants Daniel Lloyd and Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo) will play team roles.

Millar said: "Personally, I'd love to win a stage, I'm indifferent to which one, but my role within the team is more important as I'm the road captain and key player in the lead-out train (for sprints) for Tyler Farrar.

"I'm also there for Christian Vande Velde in the mountains, so I'm a jack-of-all-trades."

The race visits Belgium and the mountainous Alps and Pyrenees before heading to Paris for the traditional Champs-Elysees finish.

The first hazard comes on Tuesday's third stage in the form of 13.5km of cobblestone roads near the finish of the 213km stage from Wanze in Belgium to Arenberg in France.

Riders negotiate the cobbles on the Paris-Roubaix in 2008
Various routes are employed to get through the cobbled sections

Armstrong has predicted chaos as the cobbles are particularly slippery when wet, while punctures and crashes are just as likely in the dry.

The 38-year-old American, who rides for RadioShack, reported on his Twitter account: "Done with the stage three reconnaissance. Going. To. Be. Carnage."

Germany's Jens Voigt, who is riding in his 13th Tour, said: "The Tour de France is already a spectacle, do we need to add this? It can be dangerous."

And Garmin sports director Matt White added: "There are 10 or 12 genuine (overall) contenders.

"I reckon on Tuesday you might be able to cut that list down to four guys, and I'm being optimistic.

"You're not racing against Contador that day. It's the cobbles, it will be a big free-for-all. There's 20 different scenarios that can happen that day and you've got to be able to react to them."

Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters said: "The approach to the first section of cobbles will be full speed, I imagine there will be a crash, there will be a bottleneck.

"Someone will lose the race that day, I just don't know who it's going to be. It could be Lance, could be Contador, could be (Andy) Schleck."

Tour organisers have thrown in the cobbles, which are usually reserved for one-day classics such as the Paris-Roubaix, to liven up the first week, which is usually the exclusive domain of the sprinters.

And in the final week, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tour first going through the Pyrenees, race organisers have plotted four days in the mountains that separate France from Spain.

The Col du Tourmalet, at 2,115m, is the biggest of the climbs and the riders have to negotiate it twice in the space of three days, once as a summit finish and once in the middle of a stage that contains three other huge climbs.

The yellow jersey will be determined on the slopes of the Pyrenees before the race heads to Paris and the sprinters' paradise on the Champs-Elysees on 25 July.

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The Brits on Le Tour



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see also
Tour de France 2010 guide
02 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France day by day
04 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Supporting Tour role suits Thomas
03 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Wiggins in top condition for Tour
25 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Britain's Lloyd gets Tour call-up
26 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Cavendish upbeat on Tour chances
24 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Cummings and Thomas get Tour nod
24 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Contador man to beat - Armstrong
14 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Contador seals 2009 Tour victory
26 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Armstrong set for Tour farewell
29 Jun 10 |  Cycling


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