Tour de France 2023: Mark Cavendish seeks stage record; Pogacar & Vingegaard set for title duel

The Tour de France starts on Saturday in Bilbao – with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and two-time winner Tadej Pogacar expected to battle it out for victory in cycling’s greatest race.

But will anyone else be able to mount a challenge when the going gets tough in the eight mountain stages?

Could Mark Cavendish complete a fairytale farewell to the Tour by taking the all-time record for stage wins he currently shares with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx?

And what can we expect from all-rounder Wout van Aert, a rider who can seemingly do almost anything on a bike?

BBC Sport looks at the riders aiming to shine and those with their sights set on the yellow jersey.

Widely regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time, Cavendish, 38, lines up for the 14th and final time chasing history at the Tour.

The Manx missile delivered one of sport’s great comebacks by winning four stages in 2021. It took him level with Merckx at the top of the all-time Tour de France stage wins list – both men have 34.

Fabio Jakobsen’s selection for Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl denied Cavendish the chance to set a new record last year.

And the Dutch sprinter, plus Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen, Christophe Laporte, Van Aert and Caleb Ewan will all stand in Cavendish’s way this time around.

However, the first pure sprint arrives in Bordeaux on stage seven, as the city returns to the race route after a 13-year absence. And the last stage winner there, in 2010? Cavendish.

Vingegaard, 26, arrives at the Tour in confident mood, having won three stage races this term.

His victory at the traditional Tour warm-up – the Criterium du Dauphine in June – underlined his status as narrow race favourite ahead of Pogacar.

“I think winning the Tour gives me a lot of confidence and I believe I can do it again,” he said. “A lot of things can happen, and I’ll have to be at my best level, but I think I can do it.”

The Dane goes into the three-week race with the backing of a formidable Jumbo-Visma team, containing Van Aert and Sepp Kuss.

And he has shown on numerous occasions that he has the capabilities to stay with and ride away from anyone in the mountains.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)


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