Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Rolf Aldag described his team as a "body without a head" after the departure of its leader Mark Cavendish from the Tour de France. The Manx missile announced this morning that he would abandon the race, due to a dislocated AC joint he suffered in his stage 1 crash.
"It's probably comparable to if Sky lost Froome. It's a super functional body without a head. The body is super strong, but we just need to find our head and that might take a day or two to be fair to the others," Aldag told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 2.
Cavendish is still with the team in Yorkshire, but will leave before the race reaches France. The sprinter will undergo an MRI scan to assess the full extent of the damage to his shoulder before undergoing surgery. Then the team will be able to plan his return to racing. There is hope for Cavendish. Fellow sprinter André Greipel suffered the same kind of injury, also called a dislocated collarbone, at the end of March and was back to racing within a month of having surgery to re-attach two ligaments.
The Belgian team had put almost all of their resources behind Cavendish for the sprints, as he aimed to take the Tour's yellow jersey in his mother's hometown in Harrogate. Aldag admits that his departure will have an impact on the remaining riders, but says that they will still be as strong as ever.
"I think we have to realise that we lost him, because it takes a little while," he said. "As a team we do 280 race days, and we only do 80 with Mark, so we do 200 without him. So we have an idea of what to do without him. Is it ideal? No. Of course it won't be our perfect Tour de France, but we're still here with eight great riders, and we just have to tasks and challenges for them now."
Aldag said that, going forward, the team will have to treat each stage as a one-day race, picking up opportunities where they can. The team are hardly lacking in firepower in this year's race. Amongst the remaining eight riders, they have four former Tour de France stage winners in Alessandro Petacchi, Jan Bakelants, Tony Martin and Matteo Trentin. In addition they have Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra and general classification hope Michal Kwiatkowski. While they still hold a raft of options with 19 stages to go, they'll have to head back to the drawing board on overall strategy.
"It would be a lie if we said that Tony Martin wasn't the favourite for the time trial. Bakelants showed at the Dauphiné that he could win this year and he won a stage last year. Niki Terpstra won Paris-Roubaix, and we have a similar stage here, so we have our chances. Of course, we need to get out stuff back together. We need to completely re-draw our game plan, because our game plan was Mark Cavendish," said Aldag.