Mark Cavendish produced a stunning performance on Sunday to win the national road race title for the second time in his career – and in doing so put huge pressure on his Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team less than a week out from the start of the 109th Tour de France.
Cavendish, 37, is tied with Eddy Merckx as the most successful Tour stage winner in history with 34 wins. But despite his incredible comeback at last year’s Tour, when Cavendish ended a long run of illness and injury to win four stages plus the green jersey, and despite the fact the outright stage record is within his grasp, and despite the fact the race begins in Copenhagen where Cavendish memorably won his world title 11 years ago, there have been doubts as to whether he will be selected this time around.
Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen has been on the Belgian team’s Tour list since the start of the season and it is thought Cavendish would have to go as a second sprinter if he is to be selected.
The former world road champion could not have done much more than he did on Sunday to impress the selectors, infiltrating the day’s breakaway in wet and windy Dumfries and Galloway before beating off Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexandar Richardson (Le Col) in a three-up sprint after they escaped with 30km to go.
It was a vintage tactical performance, with Cavendish making the right calls at the right times and finishing things off without the need for a leadout.
Afterwards Cavendish said he was still waiting to hear from his team about the Tour. His ex-Great Britain team mate David Millar said it would be “absolute insanity” if Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl declined to take him, echoing similar comments made by Sir Bradley Wiggins last week.
Alice Towers, a 19 year-old who rides for Le Col-Wahoo, won the women’s race thanks to a solo attack from 40km out. Last year's champion Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) edged out Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) in the sprint for second place.