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Mark Cavendish unlikely to race Tour de France but promises to be ready if required

The Manx Missile told Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team boss Patrick Lefevere he will be ready should something go wrong with first-choice Fabio Jakobsen

Mark Cavendish is looking increasingly unlikely to get the call for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl's Tour de France team.

You may be thinking there is nothing new with this — and you would be right — it is the same position we were told to expect all season, but with the team's number one sprinter Fabio Jakobsen continuing to rack up race wins, the decision looks — barring crash, injury or illness — all but confirmed.

> No Tour de France record for Mark Cavendish in 2022 — teammate Fabio Jakobsen says Manx Missile will race Giro d'Italia

Team boss Patrick Lefevere's latest Het Nieuwsblad column outlines the decision-making process for the biggest Grand Tour of the season.

"We always work with a long list: a number of riders already know from the first training camp of the season that we are looking at them for the Tour. After Switzerland we will go from eleven names to the final eight names," he explained.

Cycling is, of course, characteristically unpredictable: crashes derail race calendars, injuries can strike at the least opportune moment, and immune systems weakened by training yourself into the best shape of your life can get ill. That's all without mentioning Covid. 

In a column in the same newspaper back in February, Lefevere insisted the team's best sprinter, Cav or Jakobsen, would go to the Tour. That hierarchy now seems to have been firmly established.

"It is no secret that we are going to sprint in the Tour with Fabio Jakobsen. Although I will continue to speak with two names until ad nauseam," he continued.

"Last year, Sam Bennett was also a certainty, so to speak, but in the end Cavendish went to the Tour. I talked to him on the last weekend of the Giro. Mark said: 'I'm a pro, I'll be ready until the last day."

The pair's respective results have delivered the Belgian team to the decision that their Dutch sprinter is the best option, regardless of Cav's tantalising proximity to that record he doesn't like talking about very much.

While the Manx Missile's 2022 wins have arguably been more prestigious — a Giro d'Italia stage, a WorldTour win at the UAE Tour, Milan-Torino and an early season victory in Oman — Jakobsen has been scintilatingly prolific, taking his ninth of the year yesterday.

Cavendish Giro 2022 stage three

Within the nine (so far): a stage of Paris-Nice, Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, two stages (and points jerseys) at each of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Volta ao Algarve and Tour de Hongrie.

His latest win, at Elfstedenronde Brugge on Sunday, a destructive demonstration of his form — beating Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier — and supported by his likely Tour sprint train: Michael Mørkøv, Florian Sénéchal and Yves Lampaert.

Jakobsen will race Baloise Belgium Tour this week with the same support crew, and will take on former teammate Sam Bennett, Mads Pedersen, Giro stage winner Alberto Dainese, Jasper Philipsen, and Lotto Soudal's breakout star Arnaud De Lie. The five-stage, sprint-heavy race in his team's home country looks to be the final obstacle between the 25-year-old and his place on the startline in Copenhagen.

"Obviously, if you're going with a sprinter, you also need a lead-out. Until further notice, Michael Mørkøv is the best in the world in that role," Lefevere continued.

"Yves Lampaert and/or Florian Sénéchal have their place on the train. And because as a sprinter team you have to control the race, you also need a profile like Tim Declercq or Josef Cerny. Unfortunately, the latter fell ill again in the Dauphiné."

And what about the world champion?

"If Alaphilippe gets fit, he will come." Simple.

2022 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Julian Alaphilippe  - 3.jpg

"We're not going to be secretive about that. He is making good progress with altitude training in the Sierra Nevada, but with all due respect: there is a big difference between training uphill with Yves Lampaert or Tim Declercq and effectively participating in the race.

"We will not go to the Tour with a general classification man, even without his difficult preparation, we would not burn out Alaphilippe that way."

So, that's that. Barring misfortune it seems all but certain there'll be no stage win number 35 (this year)...

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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