Cavendish targets Merckx Tour de France record

British road cycling star Mark Cavendish will target Eddy Merckx's Tour de France record of stage wins as he spearheads the Dimension Data team's challenge despite an illness-plagued season.

Mark Cavendish has raced little this year due to glandular fever but said the lure of the Tour was too great to consider skipping the world's most prestigious race.   -  Getty Images

British road cycling star Mark Cavendish will target Eddy Merckx's Tour de France record of stage wins as he spearheads the Dimension Data team's challenge despite an illness-plagued season.

The sprint king is just four wins away from equalling Tour great Merckx's record of 34 stage wins.

The 32-year-old has raced little this year due to glandular fever but said the lure of the Tour was too great to consider skipping the world's most prestigious race.

"As has been widely reported, it's been a difficult few months for me on the back of the illness that set me back earlier on in the season," said the 30-time Tour stage winner.

"Despite this setback and my lack of race time I've worked incredibly hard both to ensure I could firstly recover from the illness as well as then aiming to build my fitness up as much as possible in order to start the Tour.

"If I am being totally honest, had this not been the Tour de France we may have collectively taken a different approach with regards to my inclusion but I feel that I owe it to myself, the team, our sponsors and most importantly to the Tour itself given its history and everything that it stands for -- as well as the emotional attachment I have for it -- to give it my best and to put everything I have in to trying to help the team."

Cavendish enjoyed something of a renaissance last year, winning four Tour stages for his African team — his best return since claiming five stages in 2011.

Since then he'd been pushed into the shade by German pair Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel, but he left both trailing in his wake last year as they could win only one stage each.

Cavendish has however just one stage win this year in the Tour of Abu Dhabi in February and was sidelined with glandular fever for three months before only returning to competition in mid-June.

He will be joined in the Dimension Data team by two-time British time-trial champion Stephen Cummings. The 36-year-old has focused on the three-week French race in recent years and has stage wins in each of the past two editions.

This year's tour starts in the German city of Duesseldorf on Saturday.

Dimension Data team for Tour de France:

Mark Cavendish (GBR), Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR), Stephen Cummings (GBR), Bernhard Eisel (AUT), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA), Serge Pauwels (BEL), Mark Renshaw (AUS), Scott Thwaites (GBR), Jaco Venter (RSA)

Quintana, Valverde lead Movistar team

Colombian Nairo Quintana, who has finished on the Tour de France podium three times in recent years, leads the Movistar team into this year's race. An experienced team around the former Giro d'Italia also features Alejandro Valverde, the 37-year-old Spaniard who will be competing in the 22nd Grand Tour of his career.

Team: Nairo Quintana (COL), Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Andrey Amador (CRC), Daniele Bennati (ITA), Carlos Betancur (COL), Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP), Imanol Erviti (ESP), Jesus Herrada (ESP), Jasha SŶtterlin (GER)

FDJ team:

Debutant Olivier Le Gac and French champion Arnaud Demare figure in the FDJ team for the Tour de France released on Monday:

Arnaud Dşmare (FRA), Davide Cimolai (ITA), Mickašl Delage (FRA), Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA), Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU), Olivier Le Gac (FRA), Rudy Molard (FRA), Thibaut Pinot (FRA), Arthur Vichot (FRA).

Cannondale team:

Pierre Rolland (FRA), Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Patrick Bevin (NZL), Nathan Brown (USA), Simon Clarke (AUS), Taylor Phinney (USA), Andrew Talansky (USA), Rigoberto Uran (COL), Dylan van Baarle (NED)

Bahrain team:

Yukiya Arashiro (JPN), Grega Bole (SLO), Borut Bozic (SLO), Janez Brajkovic (SLO), Ondrej Cink (CZE), Sonny Colbrelli (ITA), Tsgabu Grmay (ETH), Ion Izagirre (ESP), Javier Moreno (ESP)

Cofidis team:

Nacer Bouhanni (FRA), Dimitri Claeys (BEL), Christophe Laporte (FRA), Cyril Lemoine (FRA), Luis Angel Matş (ESP), Daniel Navarro (ESP), Florian Sşnşchal (FRA), Julien Simon (FRA), Geoffrey Soupe (FRA)