Sprinter Cavendish leads SLO-based cycling team into Tour de France

Headlining San Luis Obispo-based Team HTC Highroad in this year’s Tour de France will be a familiar name: sprinter extraordinaire Mark Cavendish of Great Britain.

He and eight teammates will take the starting line on Saturday, the first day of the month-long race. Professional cycling’s premier event, the Tour de France, will run from Saturday through July 24. It will consist of 21 stages and the competitors will cover a distance of 2,126 miles by the time they finish circling through Paris on the final day.

Cavendish, the “Manx Missile” as he is known because he is from the Isle of Man, has won 15 stages of the tour since 2008. He hopes to compete this year for the green jersey, which is given to the top overall sprinter.

Also looking to win sprint stages for Highroad will be Matt Goss of Australia, who will make his Tour de France debut. He has won eight races this year, including the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

Helping lead the sprinters to the finish line will be Bernhard Eisel, a 30-year-old from Austria who will act as captain of Highroad’s team. Mark Renshaw of Australia will reprise his role as the lead-out man whose job is to put the sprinters in the final perfect position to power to victory at the finish.

Beyond the sprints, Highroad has three riders who will contest for the general classification title, team manager Rolf Aldag said in a news release.

German Tony Martin, who won this year’s edition of the Paris-Nice stage race, is the team’s main contender for a top 10 finish in the overall ranking. Also competing for the GC title will be Slovakian Peter Velits and American Tejay Van Garderen.

Of Martin, Aldag said: “He has realistic hopes of a top-ten position in the GC and he’ll get the support from our team We will also rely on him to help power us in the pivotal team time trial on stage two.”Van Garderen is a 22-year-old from Tacoma who finished fifth overall in this year’s Tour of California.

“Young Tejay Van Garderen will make his first Tour de France start and we’re confident he’s ready,” said Aldag. “He’s had an extraordinary season and will be asked to help in the team time trial and to learn as much as he can. His future is in riding GC in grand tours, so he’ll try to soak up as much experience as he can.”

Velits is a 26-year-old whose resume is highlighted by the third-place finish overall in the 2010 Vuelta a España, Spain’s grand tour race.Rounding out the squad are Lars Bak (Denmark) and Danny Pate (USA).