Dimension Data directeur sportif Roger Hammond says that the team still holds out hope that Mark Cavendish can return to racing this season. However, with a broken shoulder blade, it is still unclear how long the Manxman could be out of action.
When Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France in 2014, rupturing his AC joint in the process, he was able to return to action for the Tour of Britain in September. He has injured the same shoulder in his crash with Peter Sagan, fracturing his shoulder blade this time around. Cavendish will have to undergo further tests before the team and doctors can make a full assessment of his recovery time.
"I think it's speculation at the moment. Do we hope? Of course, we do. Do we know? No. So, it's somewhere between those two," Hammond told Cyclingnews.
"He's going back for all the various scans and x-rays. At the moment, it's in the hands of the medical team at home and the same people who picked him off the floor with glandular fever will now support him again and will now try to get him back into fitness. It takes a bit of time; I think we'll let Mark get home and settle into normal life first."
Losing a rider during a Grand Tour is always a challenge, particularly when it's your team leader and someone with the personality of Cavendish.
The Manxman won four stages of last year's Tour de France, with the team also getting Stephen Cummings' victory to Lac de Payolle. This season has been altogether more challenging after an ankle injury kept him out of the early Classics and then his diagnosis of glandular fever in the spring.
The team has had to race most of the season without their lead rider but Hammond says that they are not going to crumble just because he's left the Tour de France.
"We're trying to pick up and move on. Of course, it's a big blow," said Hammond.
"For everybody who is disappointed at home, we're equally as disappointed here. For everybody it is disappointing and everybody is sad about the situation. But what do we do? Do we sit down and cry in the corner? No. We stand up, pick up and move on. We have got a strong group of lads here, and that's what we're doing."
Hammond still has confidence that the team can pull out a stage win at this year's Tour de France.
"We still have power in the team, and I believe that we still have people on that bus who have the capability to win a stage of the Tour de France, whether it is a bunch sprint, a mountain stage or whatever. I still believe that or we might as well go home."
The first real test for the team without Cavendish was stage 6 to Troyes. Marcel Kittel won his second stage of the Tour de France, while Edvald Boasson Hagen finished 13th. The Norwegian rode on the front of the bunch for most of the final kilometre, which he paid for when the bigger sprinters came to the fore. The team will have another crack at success on Friday, and several more after that on flat and rolling stages.
"We've got three or four riders who have the potential to get up there," explained Hammond. "Mark on an 80 per cent day can win a bunch sprint, whereas I think that we have to be a bit more realistic and things have to be a bit more in their favour with good legs. We've got that privilege of being able to mix that up and just trying different things.
"We're not a team that is going to be able to change the face of the race on a sprint stage. We'll just have to look for the opportunities.
"We still have some pretty darn fast guys here. It's just that a few days ago we had the privilege of having one of the fastest sprinters in the world in our team. Now, we don't have that. Do we have fewer chances? I don't think so. Our lead-out riders are good sprinters in their own rights."
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