Mark Cavendish to lead QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl at Giro d'Italia, but move means he could miss Tour de France

Mark Cavendish to lead QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl at Giro d'Italia, but move means he could miss Tour de France

Cavendish, who turns 37 this month, won four stages at the Tour last year to move level with Eddy Merckx's all-time record of 34 stage victories, but even after he signed a one-year contract extension to continue his career it was clear he would face competition to return to the race this season.

QuickStep's other primary sprinter, Fabio Jakobsen, is expected to target the Tour, although it is worth noting Cavendish was not in line to race in France last summer but made the most of an opportunity handed to him when then team-mate Sam Bennett succumbed to a knee injury.

"We go to the Giro d'Italia with a lot of motivation," QuickStep sports director Davide Bramati said. "We have a good team at the start, with Mark as our man for the flat.

"He has won a lot of stages at the Giro, and he can rely on many strong riders to support and guide him in the hectic bunch sprints. For the other stages, we'll just take it one day at a time, fight for every opportunity and see what we can do."

Cavendish has largely refused to answer questions regarding Tour selection this season, although it seems certain he will face more of them when he addresses the media on Wednesday to preview the Giro, which starts in Budapest on Friday.

This will be the first time Cavendish has raced the Italian Grand Tour since 2013, although he has a proud record in the Giro too, having won 15 stages in the five editions he has raced, winning the points classification in 2013 and wearing the leader's pink jersey for a total of four days.

Cavendish will have a strong support squad with him in Italy, including his expert lead-out man Michael Morkov and fellow Brit James Knox.

Meanwhile, Simon Yates will lead the Team BikeExchange-Jayco squad targeting the general classification in Italy, aiming to build on his third place overall last season.

The 29-year-old, winner of the Vuelta a Espana in 2018, is making the Giro his primary target for a fifth consecutive year before an expected change of focus next year.

On the back of winning two stages at the Vuelta Asturias this weekend, Yates heads to Budapest for the 'Grande Partenza' in confident mood.

"I still have memories of the great celebrations on the podium in Milan last year, and it wouldn't be bad to re-live the same emotions again," Yates said.

"A success in a way is not the end result. I want to go there in my best condition and do the best result possible.

"If I don't win then, then that's okay because somebody is better than me. If I go there and I am not at the level required, then that is a failure for me."

Fellow Brits Ben Swift, Ben Tulett, (both Ineos Grenadiers) and Alex Dowsett (Israel-Premier Tech) have been confirmed to start the race while Hugh Carthy, Simon Carr, Owain Doull (all EF Education-EasyPost) and Matt Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) are expected to be in when their teams announce the line-ups.

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