Mark Cavendish will be pushing for his eleventh win of the season in the four-day Circuit Franco-Belge stage race, which starts on Thursday in the Belgian town of Mouscron.
The T-Mobile sprinter is one of four Britons taking part in mainland Europe?s last stage race of the season, along with team-mate Roger Hammond, Discovery Channel?s Steve Cummings and DFL?s Dan Lloyd.
Cavendish will face strong opposition in his bid to add to a string of victories which started with the Scheldeprijs this April. This weekend?s Zurich Championships Classic has been cancelled so the Franco-Belge has an unusually strong field.
13 ProTour teams out of a total field of 23 and sprinters of the calibre of Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto), Geert Steegmans (Quick Step), Jimmy Casper (Unibet.com), Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2R) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) are all taking part.
With no time trial, it is not unusual for a sprinter to take the overall win in Franco-Belge – Robbie McEwen did just that in 2002. However, with World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) all taking part the sprinters teams may have a tough time keeping the race together.
One team which is not present is Astana. Race organiser Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke announced a month ago that the Kazakh team would not be welcome because of the doping affairs that rocked the squad this summer.
CIRCUIT FRANCO-BELGE 2007: STAGE LIST
Stage 1 – October 4: Mouscron (Belgium) – Mouscron (Belgium) 177.3 km
Stage 2 – October 5: Maubeuge (France) – Templeuve (France) 204.8 km
Stage 3 – October 6: Bray-Dunes (France) – Poperinge (Belgium) 194.6 km
Stage 4 – October 7: Cuesmes (Belgium) – Tournai (Belgium) 162.1 km
Official event website: circuitfrancobelge.lunarpark.be