Mark Cavendish faces fierce Tour test in Paris

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Mark Cavendish on Sunday faces a fierce examination of his durability as the world’s fastest cyclist on the Paris boulevard he once dominated.

The 30-year-old from the Isle of Man had an unbeaten record on the concluding stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysees, winning from 2009 to 2012, until Marcel Kittel dethroned him two years ago.

Now Cavendish, who did not make it to Paris last year after crashing on the opening stage in Harrogate, is under pressure to prove he is still the best.

The overall victory will be determined on Saturday at Alpe-d’Huez before Sunday’s ceremonial finish, which will see the yellow jersey sup champagne before the sprinters contest an unofficial world championships.

Manxman Cavendish is out of contract at Etixx-QuickStep at the end of the year and faces the unusual situation of not having the final say over his future. He wishes to stay, but may not have a choice.

Cavendish won 20 of his Tour stages and three times on the Champs-Elysees with HTC-Highroad, in various guises, before the American squad disbanded in no small part due to his wish to move to Team Sky.

He spent one year with Team Sky and was memorably led out to win the 2012 stage in Paris as Sir Bradley Wiggins celebrated becoming the Tour’s first British winner in its 99th edition.

The 2013 Tour saw Kittel record four wins to Cavendish’s two before the Manxman was beaten by the German on stage one in Yorkshire in 2014, sustaining a shoulder injury in the process.

Cavendish had to wait almost two years to win his 26th Tour stage, which he did in Fougeres earlier this month, having lost out in the first two sprints to Zeeland and Amiens, despite Kittel’s absence from the race.

Andre Greipel, a rival Cavendish has previously derided, has won three stages so far and, with the Briton’s key leadout man Mark Renshaw withdrawing from the race, the Lotto-Soudal sprinter will be the favourite again in Paris.

Cavendish is a versatile rider and does not need Renshaw, but even a fifth win in Paris may not prevent him seeking a new team.

MTN-Qhubeka and Trek are among those reportedly interested in signing him.