Mark Cavendish misses out on Tour de France slot despite winning British national road title

·3 min read
Mark Cavendish – Mark Cavendish misses out on Tour de France slot despite winning British national road title - PA
Mark Cavendish – Mark Cavendish misses out on Tour de France slot despite winning British national road title - PA

Mark Cavendish has missed out on selection for this year’s Tour de France despite his success in Sunday’s national road race championships, although the Manxman has been named as one of two “first reserves” for Belgian squad Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

Cavendish, who memorably ended a long spell of injury and illness to claim four stage victories and the green jersey last year, drawing level with Eddy Merckx on the all-time list on 34 stage wins, was always an outside bet to travel this year. Quick-Step made it clear earlier this season that Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen was their No 1 sprinter for the Tour.

It was never completely done and dusted, though. And after winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia in May, Cavendish told Quick-Stop manager Patrick Lefevere that he would do everything in his power to go to France, and would continue to train as if he was going.

The 37-year-old was as good as his word, and was clearly in excellent shape as he won the British national title for the second time in his career in Dumfries and Galloway on Sunday.

That put some pressure on the selectors. And when it then became clear that world champion Julian Alaphilippe would not return from his heavy crash at Liège–Bastogne–Liège in time to make Quick-Step's Tour squad, there were calls for Cavendish to make the eight-man team in addition to Jakobsen. A 35th stage win by Cavendish to surpass the Merckx mark would undoubtedly be one of the cycling stories of the year.

Quick-Step have opted against romance, however. In a statement on Monday, the Belgian squad confirmed that Jakobsen would ride in France, where he will be able to count on the experience of one of the peloton’s best lead-out men, Michael Mørkøv, who performed wonders in Cavendish’s service last year. The other riders on the Quick-Step team this year will be Kasper Asgreen, Mattia Cattaneo – 12th overall at last year’s edition – Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert, and debutants Andrea Bagioli and Mikkel Honoré.

Quick-Step said that Cavendish and Frenchman Florian Sénéchal, who also won his national title last weekend, would be “first reserves”.

“Concerning our reserves, we must stress out that they showed a lot of professionalism, continued to train and remained focused in these past couple of weeks, and even brought two victories at the Nationals,” sporting director Tom Steels said in a statement.

Steels added of Alaphilippe: “The decision to leave Julian home was a very difficult one, as he is one of the team’s most emblematic riders and we wrote so many great moments together at the Tour.

“Julian worked hard to get back into shape after what happened to him in Liège, but it is felt that for a rider like him it’s always important to be on top of his game and be able to compete with the best riders of the peloton in a race like Le Tour. That’s why we decided to give him more time to recover and build back his condition, so that he can be at 100 per cent for the second part of the season.”

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