As part of the BBC’s coverage of the Tour de France, 5 Live’s Peter Slater will be commentating live on the final 90 minutes of each stage of the Tour on the BBC Sport website.
Here, he looks ahead to what could be an historic race for a British sprinter.
Mark Cavendish may be about to become a star. In the next few days he may just win a stage of the world’s greatest bike race.
Okay, so he's already won gold medals on the track. Sure, at the Giro d’Italia he proved to be the fastest man around when it comes to a sprint finish. He made history by becoming the first Briton to win two stages in Italy, and could have won four.
But now comes the real test.
There are three genuine stage-win possibilities in the first week of this year’s Tour de France, and at the moment you'd back ‘Cav’ to take at least one of them. That would make him only the seventh Briton to win a stage in Le Tour, and the first since David Millar took the stage into Beziers six years ago (Millar’s win in 2003 was removed from his record at his own request).
Those stats alone are impressive enough, but if the Manxman does cross the line first in Nantes or Chateauroux, or if he can enliven that dull run into Toulouse before the peloton hits the Pyrenees, then who knows what accolades await?
Would that be enough for a New Year’s Honour, or does it need Olympic glory as well to nudge those who decide such things? More importantly, for those of us in the Corporation’s commentary box, would it put him in the running to be the BBC Sports Personality of The Year?
I've just had a quick look at the main Betting Exchange, and Cav is currently the 17th most-likely sportsperson to win in December. I can't fathom just how he's behind four other cyclists in the list, as well as being adrift of several people I've never even heard of. Remember that this is after his efforts in the Giro.
But you can back Mark Cavendish to win SPoTY at 25/1, so do it now, because who else is going to take those sprints? Daniele Bennati has a bad ankle, Tom Boonen’s cocaine test has seen him sidelined, Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel must be too old, so that only leaves Robbie Hunter and a few anonymous Frenchmen and Italians to challenge him.
The BBC team bringing you coverage of this year’s Tour are ready to call him home, perhaps as early as Monday afternoon. We know the colour of his jersey and can spot those teeth 100 metres away. Surely stage wins would be enough to make him only the second cyclist in history to win that most coveted of trophies in the winter?
It’s been a long time since Tommy Simpson in 1965. This could be Mark Cavendish’s year.
What do you think?
And if you’ve got any questions or comments about any aspect of the race that you’d like us to answer during the commentaries, please post them here on 606 on the daily stage posts, and we’ll do our best to respond!