Mark Cavendish has been ruled out of Gent-Wevelgem due to a viral infection and a fever, his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team announced on Friday. The Manxman was one of the favourites for victory in the race, where he was set to lead a strong QuickStep line-up.
Cavendish, who finished in 5th place in a wet and cold edition of Milan-San Remo last weekend, began to feel unwell on Wednesday and his illness deteriorated after a training ride on Thursday.
"Already on Wednesday I didn't feel well, but I went out on my bike," Cavendish said in a statement released by his team shortly after E3 Harelbeke. "I went out yesterday again, but after an hour I had muscle pain and couldn't keep going. I went home at about 15 kilometres per hour. I couldn't go any faster and I spent the rest of the day on my bed."
In spite of a slight upturn in his condition on Friday, Cavendish was unable to train and he took the decision to withdraw from Gent-Wevelgem, where André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) are among the fast men slated to line up.
"Today my situation was a little bit better, but not enough to jump on my bike and train. I am a little bit disappointed because I was really motivated for Gent-Wevelgem. It's a race I've never won," Cavendish said.
Cavendish’s place in QuickStep’s team for Gent-Wevelgem will be filled by Iljo Keisse. The team also features Tom Boonen, Gert Steegmans, Martin Velits, Matteo Trentin, Nikolas Maes, Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar. Boonen sustained a thumb injury in a crash during Friday’s E3 Harelbeke but for now he remains a part of QuickStep’s Gent-Wevelgem line-up.
Cavendish, meanwhile, is still pencilled in to ride the Three Days of De Panne next week, and he expressed his hope that he could recuperate in time. "There is nothing to do now other than recover and try to be there at Driedaagse van De Panne, as scheduled," he said.