It's not just Brad though who will be carrying British hopes, Cav is riding this years tour as current World Champion and hoping not only to add to his individual stage wins but also to try and win the green jersey for the second year running. Both riders have had good years so far and the indvidual time trial gives Brad a great chance to begin the race proper wearing the maillot jeune although I suspect that the Swiss Fabian Cancellera will enjoy a course that looks ideal for the time trial specialists.
I expect the other main competition for the yellow jersey (or GC as it is known in cycling parlance during the course of the Tour) to be Cadel Evans, last years tour winner. Evans has the face of a terrier that's just licked piss off a nettle but he's a brilliant cyclist who is not afraid of going it alone if needs must. This year he has George Hincapie in his team, Hincapie and Le Tour go together as much as Denis Menchov and tarmac, this will be his 17th successive tour which not only makes him the old man of the race but also sets a new record - go George!
Hincapie has one of the great cycling CV's and one of the most interesting. He was a team mate of Lance Armstrong on each of the Texans seven Tour wins and of Alberto Contador in 2007 and Cadel Evans in 2011 when they won the race. He has been on the winning team in Le Tour an incredible nine times and has won four stages during the previous sixteen times he has riding the three week race. He is of course one of the key witnesses in the drug taking case (or vendetta) against Lance Armstrong having reportedly told a US federal investigation that both he and Armstrong had taken EPO. Hincapie retires after this years race but I can't help thinking that we will be hearing more of George after he has dismounted from his rather expensive mode of transport around France than we will over the next three weeks.
3 weeks of suffering physically, mentally & emotionally starts today. But the image of Champs Élysées is the most beautiful target in sport.
It will be interesting to watch the Sky team trying to get a train rolling and lead Cavendish out having grown used to the HTC team doing it for so many years and where Mark Renshaw was a key figure in getting Cav into position for that final burst of speed over the final 150 metres this year Renshaw will be a rival. Stages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are all potential bunch sprint finishes and the chance for Cavendish to put his marker down before the tour begins its first serious climb next Saturday in the Vosges region.
The good news for Cav is that Sky also signed his old HTC team mate and general good guy Bernie Eisel whose sole job it seems is to make sure that Cav doesn't lose too much time in the mountains which could get him thrown off the race.