By Nick Bull
Mark Cavendish will ride the Tour of Britain for the first time since 2007, it was confirmed today.
Cavendish won the opening two stages of the race four years ago, but may use this year's event (September 11-18) to prepare for his assault on the rainbow jersey.
The World Championships road race in Copenhagen takes place exactly a week after the Tour ends in London, and having abandoned the Vuelta on stage four, he surely needs some racing miles to help his preparations.
Originally, Cavendish had been listed as a reserve by his HTC-Highroad team, but rumours of his participation have been rife since he pulled out of the Tour of Spain.
Initially, HTC's line-up was due to be announced on Thursday last week; while it is not clear if it was delayed while Cavendish's participation was confirmed, Slovakian Peter Velits has made way for the Manxman.
Because of the overlap between the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain, special dispensation had to be granted for Cavendish to race on home soil.
Cavendish on the podium at the 2007 Tour of Britain
After an impressive performance in the 2006 race as a stagiare with the T-Mobile team, Cavendish made up for his disappointment in the 2007 Tour de France by winning the Tour of Britain's opening prologue in Crystal Palace and stage one into Southampton.
Since then, he has ridden the Tour of Missouri in 2008 and 2009, and last year's Vuelta instead of his home tour.
Cavendish will have key members of his lead-out train with him in the race; Lars Bak, Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw are all competing, and will perhaps set the Brit up for one last victory with the team.
Irishman Matt Brammier and Alex Rasmussen complete the six-man squad.
The Tour's race director Mick Bennett said: "As a team we have worked hard over the past fortnight to ensure that Mark Cavendish rides The Tour of Britain.
"We are very pleased that Mark has been given permission by the organisers of the Vuelta a Espana to start The Tour of Britain, and will be able to race in front of home crowds for potentially the final time before the 2012 London Olympics.
"Mark's addition to the start list will ensure that the sprints are hotly contested. I am sure the spectacle of Mark, Thor Hushovd, Ben Swift and others going head-to-head at stage finishes will draw huge crowds to the roadside once more."
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