Mark Cavendish has responded to criticism from his HTC-Columbia teammate André Greipel, saying that he will never ride in the same race as the German.
After Cavendish was selected to ride Milan-San Remo despite his lack of early-season form, Greipel suggested he himself could have done better at the Italian event. He won three stages at the Tour Down Under in Australia but was left out of the HTC-Columbia team for the first major Classic of the season.
Earlier this year, the HTC-Columbia management had indicated that Cavendish and Greipel could create a dominant sprint combination at this year's Tour de France, but Cavendish has ruled that out.
He told The Guardian newspaper that riding in the same team as Greipel "is not a problem for me, because I'm a better rider" but rebuked the idea that Greipel could ride with him at the Tour de France, saying "There's no chance whatsoever that he's coming to a bike race with me."
Cavendish added: "I was pretty pissed with Greipel's comments after San Remo. If he thought he could win, he'd say it before the race rather than when he's looking at the results sheet. It wasn't through lack of form that I didn't win San Remo - it was bad luck. Last year I won it picking my nose. This year it was possible I'd win again. There's no chance of Greipel winning a 'Monument'. Me on bad form is still better than him.”
Cavendish crashed mid-way through Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, damaging his bike. But he managed to finish the race. "That wrecked my race. My condition is coming back, definitely. I'm going better now than I imagined I would be back in January," he said.
Cavendish will not ride the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, a race he won in both 2007 and 2008. Instead, Greipel has been named as HTC-Columbia's team captain for the Belgian race.
Team manager Bob Stapleton recently announced that Cavendish will ride the Tour of California in May, while Greipel will ride the Giro d'Italia. Cavendish stated last week that he would have preferred to ride at the Giro, but accepted that sponsors interests were more important.
Cavendish has struggled so far this season after a tooth infection wrecked his pre-season training. He has only won one race, a stage at the Tour of Catalunya, compared to a tally of eight wins at the same time last season. However, he is confident he can return to the form that saw him win six stages in last year’s Tour de France and insists success is more about the quality than quantity.
"If I wanted to just win races I wouldn't ride every ProTour race," Cavendish told The Guardian. "I understand that at the moment I'm racing to be in my best form for the Tour de France and the world championships. If I wanted to get shit small wins, I'd race shit small races."