July 03, 2014

LEEDS, England (AP) When the Tour de France begins on Saturday in Leeds, only four British riders will be on the starting line. And it's eating up Mark Cavendish.

With cycling's showcase event starting in Britain for the second time in eight years, the ace sprinter expected a stronger presence from local riders.

''In an ideal world I'd have liked to have seen more Brits at this Tour de France,'' Cavendish, who rides for the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, said on Thursday.

Alongside the sprinter from the Isle of Man, the three other British riders involved in the three-week race are defending champion Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates. Former Tour champion Bradley Wiggins and veteran David Millar were not selected.

Wiggins, the first Briton to win the Tour, was not picked among the Team Sky riders who will help Froome in his title defense, while Millar was axed from the Garmin-Sharp outfit this week.

''Britain has been successful the last years in world cycling. That is a massive part of why the Tour de France comes to the UK,'' Cavendish said. ''I would have liked to see a few more riders, namely Bradley, David and these guys, Grand Tour stage winners from our country.''

Cavendish is the favorite to win the opening stage between Leeds and Harrogate, a 190.5-kilometer trek in Yorkshire tailor-made for sprinters, and ending in his mother's hometown.

''The media attention is on me because my mother is from Harrogate,'' Cavendish said. ''I'd like to win it. We've got an incredibly strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep team and we'd like to be successful throughout the three weeks.''

Cavendish has the chance to claim a 26th stage win on the Tour and to wear the race leader's yellow jersey for the first time.

''It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey. I've not yet done that,'' Cavendish said. ''It's not a given. There's 200 bike riders, almost, on the start line and every one of those would like to wear the yellow jersey.''

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