Dimension Data’s team manager and owner were reportedly split over whether or not to take Mark Cavendish to the Tour de France, with the Manx sprinter a shock omission from the team announced its squad this morning for the race, which starts in Brussels on Saturday.
Team manager Rolf Aldag, who has worked with Cavendish at all of his professional teams other than Team Sky, who the 34-year-old raced for in 2012, is reported by PA to have been in favour of selecting him for the race.
However, it is reported that he was vetoed by team principal Doug Ryder, who made the final decision on the eight riders who will participate in the Grand Tour.
His omission from the line-up was said to have come as a shock for Cavendish, whose contract with the team runs out at the end of the season.
While he struggled over the past two seasons due to Epstein-Barr Virus, he has focused on getting back to full fitness for the Tour de France, including attending a training camp in Austria last week ahead of finishing 22nd in the national road championships on Sunday.
His performances in training reportedly led Aldag to favour him for inclusion in the line-up for the three-week race.
However, but this morning’s announcement made no mention whatsoever of Cavendish – something that saw the team come under criticism on social media.
Subsequently, the team said in a statement: “Selection for our Tour squad was a highly-competitive process and one in which a panel weighed up the options provided to us not only by Mark but indeed all of our riders.
“As you’d expect among a selection panel, there were a number of different preferences of the final squad make up with our team principal, Doug Ryder, making the final decision on it.
“This selection is one the team believes will be best suited to meet the goals set out for the race.”
Cavendish remains on 30 career stage wins in the Tour de France, four behind the all-time record held by Eddy Merckx, although the Belgian’s tally also includes time trial stages.
His first four stage wins came in 2008, his second appearance in the race, despite cutting his participation short to prepare for riding the Madison at the Beijing Olympics.
By the time his HTC-Highroad team folded at the end of the 2011 season, he had taken his tally to 20 and would win five more stages over the following two years – three with Team Sky, and two with Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
It seemed to be a question of when, not if, he would surpass Merckx’s record, but in the 2014 Tour he crashed out on the opening stage when contesting a sprint he had been favourite to win in his mother’s home town of Harrogate.
His only stage win for Omega Pharma-Quick Step came in the 2015 race, and his first Tour de France after moving to Dimension Data saw a return to his winning ways of old with four stage victories – including one on the opening day that gave him the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
He was still hunting for his first victory in the following year’s Tour de France when a crash on Stage 4 saw him withdraw with a broken shoulder, while he also drew a blank in 2018 when he was eliminated from the race after missing the time limit on Stage 11 in the Alps.
It emerged that over those two years, Cavendish had been struggling with mononucleosis brought on by the Epstein-Barr Virus, but reports in recent months were that he had finally overcome it as he focused on becoming fully fit for the Tour de France.
Today’s omission from the squad means he will have no opportunity this year to make further inroads into Merckx’s record for the rider who will be aged 35 by the time next year’s race starts in Nice, and with his contract expiring at the end of this season, will inevitably cast doubt on his future with Dimension Data.
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.