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Cavendish replaces injured Bennett at Baloise Belgium Tour

KUSADASI TURKEY APRIL 18 Arrival Mark Cavendish of United Kingdom and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Celebration during the 56th Presidential Cycling Tour Of Turkey 2021 Stage 8 a 1603km stage from Bodrum to Kuadas TUR2021 tourofturkeyTUR on April 18 2021 in Kusadasi Turkey Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at the Tour of Turkey (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Deceuninck-QuickStep have announced that sprinter Sam Bennett will be forced to miss this week's Baloise Belgium Tour due to injury.

The Irishman is suffering a problem with his right knee, according to a statement issued by the Belgian squad. The injury occurred during a training ride last week.

Mark Cavendish has been called up to replace Bennett, with the Manxman joined at the five-day race by Davide Ballerini, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv, Zdenek Štybar and Remco Evenepoel.

"Following a small incident in training last weekend, Sam Bennett has incurred a problem with his right knee," read the Deceuninck-QuickStep press release.

"After consultation with our medical team, it has been decided that he will not start this week's Belgium Tour and will instead take some rest ahead of the Tour de France.

"Sam will be replaced on Deceuninck-QuickStep's roster for the five-day race by Mark Cavendish."

The setback means that Bennett will head to the Tour's Grand Départ in Brest on June 26 having not raced since May's Volta ao Algarve. The 30-year-old is set to defend the green points jersey he won at least year's race and will look to add to his two victories in Île de Ré and Paris in 2020.

Cavendish – who has enjoyed a resurgence upon his return to the team, including four wins at the Tour of Turkey – is unlikely to race in France next month after Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere said last week that the race is "possibly too hard for him" at the moment.

Bennett, meanwhile, is set to leave Deceuninck-QuickStep at the end of 2021, with Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos Grenadiers among those linked with his signature for the new season. So far in 2021 he has racked up seven victories, including stages at Algarve, Paris-Nice, the UAE Tour, and at Classic Brugge-De Panne.

Ballerini and Cavendish will be competing against a laundry list of top sprinters this week. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), and the Alpecin-Fenix duo of Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen are all set to start the Baloise Belgium Tour, which begins in Beveren on Wednesday, June 9.