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Omega Pharma-QuickStep has confirmed that Mark Cavendish will not ride Wednesday's Scheldeprijs race. Instead, the Tour of Turkey (April 27 to May 4) is now likely to be his next race before he rides either the Giro d'Italia (May 9 to June 1) or the Amgen Tour of California (May 11 to 18).
Tom Boonen will lead Omega Pharma-QuickStep in Cavendish's absence, with Andrew Fenn, Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Renshaw and Gert Steegmans all possible alternatives for the usual sprint finish at Scheldeprijs.
Cavendish has won Scheldeprijs three times. It was his first-ever professional victory in 2007, and he won it again in 2008 and 2011.
"I am sad to miss a race that is very close to my heart, my first win as a professional," Cavendish said in a statement from the team.
"But it wouldn't be fair to the race and for my team if I couldn't arrive and perform at my best. With a team built around me, I wouldn't feel right in asking my teammates to sacrifice themselves if I'm not in condition to perform."
Following speculation by team manager Patrick Lefevere about Cavendish's race programme, Omega Pharma-QuickStep said the rest of his spring and early summer race programme will be decided next week.
Cavendish has opted for an easier race programme this season, with the goal of being at his very best for the first stage of the Tour de France to Harrogate in Britain. Last year, he won five stages at the Giro d'Italia and won the points jersey but was not at his best in July and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) dominated the sprints, winning four stages.
So far this season, Cavendish has won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta ao Algarve. He last raced at Milan-San Remo, finishing fifth in the sprint after fighting to survive the climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio in the rain.
"The team for Scheldeprijs was originally built around Mark. Unfortunately Mark won't be at the start, so we will have to reconsider a bit our race strategy," directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters said in the team statement.
"However, in the team we have a few fast men that can be there in the final and go for the sprint. The race will be also an important preparation prior to Paris-Roubaix."