Dimension Data unsure when Mark Cavendish will race next

Mark Cavendish is set for an extended spell on the sidelines this spring, with the Dimension Data team unsure when the British sprinter will next pin a race number on.

Having struggled with Epstein Barr Virus over the past couple of years, Cavendish took a long break in the second half of 2018, and began the 2019 campaign with the stated ambition of easing his way gently back.

He rode and finished the Vuelta a San Juan and the UAE Tour, where he primarily worked for teammates, but he suffered a setback at Paris-Nice earlier this month, abandoning on stage 2 after suffering in the crosswinds.

He subsequently missed Milan-San Remo for the first time since he won the Monument on his debut 10 years ago. Now, as the Spring Classics begin, there's no return in sight for the 30-time Tour de France stage winner, and no indication of the shape his build-up to July might take.

"We need to see how he's going along. He's training at the moment so we don't have news really about when he's coming back. We hope soon, but we're not sure yet," Dimension Data manager Doug Ryder told Cyclingnews in Bruges at the start of Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday.

"I can't say. Everything takes time. There are a lot of things going on at the moment. But a return date, I don't know yet."

Cavendish has explained that Epstein Barr is a tricky virus to get completely rid of, and great care has to be taken to ensure it doesn't flare up again. He himself thought he had knocked it on the head in 2017, only for it to come back.

Asked if there were any concerns Cavendish was still suffering with the virus, Ryder said: "No. There are lots of things in the process at the moment. It's tough."

Cavendish's main objective of the season is the Tour de France, where he hopes to break Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage victories. In the past he has ridden the Spring Classics, notably Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, but it is unlikely he will be seen in Belgium or France this spring.

"Nothing has been ruled out. We just haven't got a real update in terms of his racing," Ryder said.

"He's working hard, but we don't have an update. We have to wait to hear from him, and the whole performance team. There are a lot of people involved, but there's no update at the moment.

"He has trained well, and he's doing everything needed, but we're just waiting to see. There actually is no comment on an update really with him. He has been on track, sure. He's professional, he wants to race his bike and do the best he can. But it's a tough situation."

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. 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 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, 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.