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Yorkshire set for Grand Depart
The 101st Tour de France begins in Yorkshire on Saturday with Mark Cavendish bidding for the yellow jersey at the end of day one and Chris Froome aiming to be in possession of it three weeks later in Paris.
The 21-stage, 3,664-kilometres route starts in Leeds, with the first stage finishing in Harrogate, the second running from York to Sheffield and the third from Cambridge to London before 18 more stages culminate in the French capital on July 27.
It is the fourth time the Tour has crossed La Manche. In 1974 and 1994 there were fleeting visits and in 2007 London hosted the Grand Depart, which is now in Yorkshire where two million people are expected to line the roadside.
Four of the 198 riders to take to the start line are British, with Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Froome (Team Sky), who are two of the main protagonists, joined by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge).
Cavendish, whose mother Adele is from Harrogate, has attempted to play down his focus on taking the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, but there is no doubt it is his major goal.
The former self-styled 'fat banker' from the Isle of Man was once accustomed to visiting his grandparents in the spa town, and probably visited Betty's, where he may have enjoyed an afternoon tea.
By the time Cavendish reaches Betty's on Saturday afternoon, his sprint will have launched, and by the time he reaches the renamed Cvndsh and Horses (usually the Coach and Horses) he will either have won a 26th Tour stage of his distinguished career, or lost.
Such is the expectation with Cavendish, both internal and external, that winning is the only thing that matters.
Much depends on Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw, his lead-out men on the Belgian Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, which will be prominent on the front of the peloton for much of the day as they pursue the inevitable breakaway.
The opening stage has been described as flat, but it is up and down all day and the sprinters' teams will have to work together to reel in the escapees, something which could prove more challenging if showers slicken the twisting roads.
The nightmare scenario for Cavendish would be a repeat of the opening day of the London 2012 Olympic Games, where the peloton conspired against him and the hosts to leave him trailing in a lowly 29th place.
It is unlikely to be repeated with sprinters of the calibre of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), his fellow German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Frenchman Arnaud Demare (FDJ) in the field, all of whom also have aspirations to claim the fabled maillot jaune.
Kittel is chasing the jersey for a second successive year, after winning a chaotic first stage of the 100th Tour in Corsica last year, marred by the Orica-GreenEdge bus becoming stuck under the finish line gantry.
Cavendish was caught up in the mayhem and did not contest the sprint; that is another unthinkable conclusion to Saturday for the Manxman.
The stage begins on The Headrow in Leeds, with a neutralised procession to the official start at Harewood House, where a flag will be dropped and the racing will begin in earnest.
The race's first categorised climb, the Cote de Cray - the ascents have been given French prefixes - comes 68km into the day's racing and the Cote de Buttertubs and Cote de Grinton Moor follow, with the summit of the latter 61km from the finish line.
That is where the sprinters' teams will begin to work, hoping to pull the 198 riders back into a mass bunch for a hectic dash for the line.
The closing kilometres feature a number of uphill ramps, providing a further obstacle for the sprinters to overcome in their chase for the maillot jaune.
Froome will merely bid to stay in his saddle, having fallen in the neutralised zone in Corsica 12 months ago.
The 29-year-old Kenya-born Briton will face sterner tests - beginning on the road to Sheffield - after a relatively troubled build-up in comparison to 2013.
He has insisted he had nothing to do with the non-selection of Sir Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 champion, who will not start along with David Millar, much to the disappointment of many partisan fans.
Froome was all-conquering last year, but has won only the Tour of Oman and April's Tour de Romandie and crashed during June's Criterium du Dauphine, a race in which he won the first two stages before finishing 12th.
That is not to mention the controversy over his therapeutic user exemption certificate for asthma medication, something which gave those doubting his performances ammunition.
Froome's ride in 2013 led to him facing numerous questions on the subject of doping.
And he could be subjected to more if he can hold off Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) to become the first back-to-back Tour champion since the disgraced Lance Armstrong.