Tour de France 2014: Chris Boardman rues lack of Britons

Former Olympic champion Chris Boardman says it is disappointing so few British riders will start the Tour de France in Yorkshire on Saturday.

Champion Chris Froome, Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step's Mark Cavendish and Orica GreenEdge's Simon Yates will be the only Britons in this year's race.

Boardman, 45, one of six Britons to have worn the race leader's yellow jersey at the Tour de France, said: "It is disappointing how many British riders we've got in the peloton."

He also believes the first stage in Yorkshire is the toughest in decades.

British riders who have worn the yellow jersey

Tom Simpson 1962, Chris Boardman 1994, Sean Yates 1994, David Millar 2000, Bradley Wiggins 2012, Chris Froome 2013

British riders David Millar, of Team Garmin-Sharp, and Alex Dowsett, of Movistar, were both pulled out of the race because of health concerns - while Sir Bradley Wiggins, Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift were all left out by Team Sky.

Boardman added that Cavendish, from the Isle of Man, faces a "big ask" to win the opening stage of this year's Tour, held for the first time in Yorkshire.

Sprint specialist Cavendish pulled out of Sunday's National Championships in Wales to ensure he was fully fit for this year's Tour following illness.

The 29-year-old has won 25 Tour stages, joint third on the all-time list.

Stage one of this year's race is a 190.5km route through the Yorkshire Dales from Leeds to Harrogate.

Chris Boardman

It's a lot tougher than people think it's going to be - possibly the Tour's toughest opening stage for decades

Chris Boardman

Boardman, individual pursuit champion at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, said: "It's a lot tougher than people think it's going to be - possibly the Tour's toughest opening stage for decades.

"It does flatten off for the last 60km so that, if the sprinter teams really want it, they've got time to pull it back together which, of course, is what Mark Cavendish is going to want.

"It is, as the footballers say, a big ask for Cavendish. He historically takes a few days to get into his stride. He's up against it with Marcel Kittel, the new young German sprinter who's been on form this year as well."

Boardman, who rode in the Tour when it visited southern Britain in 1994, won the prologue three times, taking the yellow jersey on each occasion as a result.

Stage two is also in Yorkshire, over 201km from York to Sheffield, and Boardman added: "It's a lumpy old day, all through the day."

He singled out Jenkin Road - a suburban Sheffield street close to Meadowhall Shopping Centre - with less than 5km to go as a key point. "It's only 900m long, but it's steep," said Boardman.

"It will string out the peloton and it goes into a housing estate immediately, so there's a potential there for some small time gaps to develop."