Reigning champion withdraws due to bronchitis and doesn’t want to jeopardise Tour de France chances

British men’s road champion Mark Cavendish will not defend his title in Monmouthshire on Sunday due to illness, with the sprinter saying he does not want to jeopardise his chances at the Tour de France, which starts a week on Saturday.

In a statement issued late yesterday evening, Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step team said that he is fighting a bout of bronchitis which began during the closing days of the Tour de Suisse last week, and he will continue to train for the Tour de France in Italy.

Cavendish, who won the title for the first time in Glasgow 12 months ago, said: "I'm sad because, as current champion, I would really like to defend the title. I would have liked to honour the race and this jersey that I wore for all of 2014 so far, which allowed me to represent my country proudly.

“I think it's wiser, however, to not take any risks,” he went on, saying that he would “focus on absolute, 100 percent recovery” ahead of the Tour de France, where victory in the opening stage in his mother’s home town of Harrogate, and with it the opportunity to wear the yellow jersey of race leader for the first time, is his major goal for the season.

He added: “I talked with the race organisers and they understood my situation perfectly. I wish them well, and also wish good luck to all riders at the race on Sunday trying to fight for this jersey I've been so proud to wear."

The 2014 National Road Championships begin today with the men’s and women’ time trials, starting and finishing at Celtic Manor, with the road races, which begin and end in Abergavenny, following on Sunday.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.