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Cavendish fears Jakobsen fallout amid 'lazy' Tour rivalry stories

Fabio Jakobsen and Mark Cavendish at the 2021 Tour of Turkey
Fabio Jakobsen and Mark Cavendish at the 2021 Tour of Turkey (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish has expressed fears that his relationship with teammate Fabio Jakobsen might deteriorate as a result of the question marks surrounding selection for this year’s Tour de France. 

Cavendish, (opens in new tab) who won four stages at last year’s Tour de France (opens in new tab) to equal Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins, suggested the media would be to blame if talk of a rivalry sparked a rift between the two sprinters. 

Despite his haul last July, Cavendish was a late replacement for the injured Sam Bennett and is once again not guaranteed of a place in QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s Tour de France line-up this year. Jakobsen suggested at the start of the season that the sprinter’s spot was his, but team boss Patrick Lefevere later tempered those comments by saying a decision would be made nearer the time and that "the best one will go".

“It’s an easy story to make - am I or aren’t I going, is my teammate going or not. It’s an easy story. It’s quite a lazy story in my honest opinion, because it’s that easy,” Cavendish said in Eurosport's 'The Breakdown' (opens in new tab) podcast, where he also talked about his return from the Epstein-barr virus and depression. 

Cavendish highlighted the strength of his relationship with Jakobsen, who has battled back from a life-threatening crash in the summer of 2020 to rejoin the top echelon of sprinting.

Cavendish was moved to tears when he was shown a video message from Jakobsen after his first win at last year’s Tour, going on to say: “He’ll be here next year, you’ll see, and he’ll be starting his own history in the Tour de France - there’s nobody that believes that more than me."

Cavendish indicated his reluctance to discuss the issue of Tour de France selection was down to a fear of damaging that bond. 

“Fabio and myself have supported each other so much the last years. The last thing I want and the last thing he wants… and the one thing that scares me about all this, is for any sort of rivalry to be created between us,” he said. 

“I only know that from experience, from knowing what happens when the press want to create a rivalry. It’s not really that nice. Unfortunately it does start to cause friction and we’re not like that and we don’t want to be like that. 

“That’s why I’m quite reluctant to talk about it, because I don’t want to fall out with a mate because of something that’s out of our control. What’s in my control is not talking about it, so that those outside influences that are out of my control can’t then affect it.”

In a podcast conversation that largely revolved around mental health, Cavendish added that he struggles not to let doubters and detractors affect him. He feels there’s a small group of people “expecting me to fail” and even suggested “it can be quite close to home”, before declining to elaborate on who.

“There are some people that want Fabio to go to the Tour so that I’m not going to the Tour - not for Fabio to go and win at the Tour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very small demographic. It’s that chip. It’s that small demographic that does the biggest dint in your shoulder,” Cavendish said, insisting their was loyalty and support within the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team. 

“Whoever goes to the Tour… every one of the other riders in our team will be glued screaming at the TV - you can guarantee that. It’s not right that there’s someone else’s narrative that isn’t that. It pisses me off in a way, and I’d rather not talk about it.”

Cavendish will line up at the Giro d’Italia on Friday but is still on the longlist for the Tour de France, which he insisted was his “dream” in every season of his career. 

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.