The Tour of Slovenia has been added to Mark Cavendish's June race programme as the Dimension Data rider continues his comeback from Epstein-Barr Virus – commonly known as Glandular Fever or Mononucleosis. Last week it was announced that Cavendish would race the British Nationals as he battles to regain health and fitness ahead of the Tour de France.
Cavendish was first diagnosed with the virus back in March and has not raced since Milan-San Remo. The diagnosis was made after a routine UCI blood test and in the weeks since the former Tour de France green jersey and world champion has set about recovering. The Tour de France was meant to be centre point to his 2017 campaign and it's still unknown if he will be able to line up for the Grand Depart in Dusseldorf on July 1. The team are giving their star sprinter all the time needed to prove his fitness, while they also wait on Steve Cummings to return to racing after the double Tour stage winner was injured in a crash earlier this year.
At the start of the Dauphine Cyclingnews spoke to Dimension Data's Roger Hammond about Cavendish's return to full health.
"Mark still recovering. That's the whole point. He's not here and he's not going to the Tour de Suisse. We're trying to look after him as best we can but frustrating as this answer is for you, it's the same for us, this is Epstein-Barr Virus and it's not a broken collar bone so there's not a time line or tried and tested method. It's individualised for each person. So it's an unknown."
"The fact that he's put his name down for nationals is progress. He's not getting worse at the moment but we're bland with the answers not to play mind games it's just that we don't know. It's a gradual thing but he is back on the bike."
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While the Nationals are an important stepping-stone for Cavendish the Tour of Slovenia – which takes place the week before from June 15-18 – will allow the sprinter to experience multiple day racing for the first time since March. Doug Ryder, who has kept in contact with his lead sprinter throughout the last few months, confirmed news that Cavendish will ride the four-day race.
While Cavendish's Tour de France prospects remain too close to call, Hammond and the rest of the Dimension Data management have worked on a series of scenarios in order to build their final nine for the Tour de France. Edvald Boasson Hagen is an obvious choice but the team are also monitoring the health of their riders after a successful but difficult Giro d'Italia. On top of that, the Dauphine and the Tour de Suisse act as auditions for a number of riders seeking selection.
"To be honest we feel like we're so far from the Tour," Hammond added.
"Most teams are probably finalising their teams now but we feel like we're so far away. It's so speculative. Cavendish has put his name down for nationals but we'll have to see after we get there. He's a fairly impressive human but of course expectations change when you crash or get ill. My job is to manage the ability of the riders and getting the best out of the team. That's what we'll do at the Tour, no different."
As for Cavendish, the Tour de France remains an unknown.
"The biggest assumption is assuming he's healthy. Until we've got that bit right all the rest is just wishful thinking and speculative. As soon as that's ready, Mark can do anything."