Tour de France: Mark Cavendish says start ‘is going to be the hardest’ in his career

Mark Cavendish said the start to the 2023 Tour de France “is going to be the hardest I’ve seen in my career” after the men’s route was announced.

The 21-stage 3,404km race will start in Bilbao, Spain, on 1 July and include all five of France’s mountain ranges before finishing in Paris on 23 July.

There will be one 22km time trial stage, with eight mountain stages and four summit finishes.

“It’s exciting, it’s going to be a good show,” said Cavendish, 37.

“It will change things up with the GC [general classification] riders dictating things early on instead of settling into it.

“But if the sprinters can survive the mountains, they’ve got ample opportunities for real bunch sprints. Long boulevard finishes of more than a kilometre of a final straight. It will make for exciting days all around.

“There are maybe seven or eight sprint opportunities. It’s a lot, you know. Real sprint opportunities.”

Cavendish was left out of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s team for the 2022 Tour de France and is yet to confirm his team for next season.

He will be chasing a record breaking 35th stage win in the race if he does compete after drawing level with Eddy Merckx on 34 stage victories in 2021.

Last year’s men’s race was won by Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard for Jumbo-Visma after he broke Slovenian Tadej Pogacar’s two-year stranglehold on the race for UAE Team-Emirates.

Dutch legend Annemiek van Vleuten won the women’s race last year – the first time it was held as a stage race for more than 30 years.

The women’s 2023 Tour de France Femmes will be an eight-stage race, from 23 to 30 July, and will end with a 22km individual time trial.

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