Patrick Lefevere has outlined his Deceuninck-QuickStep team's sprinting plans for the Tour de France, saying that 2020 green jersey Sam Bennett will enjoy a full sprint train but noting that a return to the biggest race of the year is not on the menu for Mark Cavendish.
The Manxman, who has 30 Tour stage wins to his name, returned to the Belgian squad this season after spending five years at Dimension Data and Bahrain-McLaren. He has impressed so far in 2021, picking up several podium spots before winning four sprint stages at April's Tour of Turkey.
Despite Cavendish's resurgence – only six men have more wins this year – however, he won't be at the Tour de France.
"The Tour is possibly too hard for him now," Patrick Lefevere said in an interview with Italian website Bici.Pro.
"Mark has done a few races. He's also been unlucky because some of the race he was supposed to do were cancelled. He retired on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Andalucía saying it wasn't a race for sprinters and then André Greipel won the next day."
Sam Bennett, however, will be heading to the Tour for the fourth time and should once again be accompanied by the team's top-level sprint train, including Michael Mørkøv, Tim Declercq, and Kasper Asgreen.
The Irishman, who is set to leave the team at the end of 2021 after failing to reach a new deal with Lefevere, has seven wins on his palmarès this year and will be looking to add to his two stage wins last summer as well as defend the maillot verde against the likes of Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan.
Lefevere said that the presence of what has been the quickest sprint train in the peloton in recent years will take some pressure off the team's Tour leader, world champion Julian Alaphiliippe, adding that Fabio Jakobsen will be the team's main sprinter in 2022, rather than signing up a new sprinter.
"Bennett and his train [will race], which will take a lot of pressure off Alaphilippe, so he will have more freedom. It will be Sam's last year with us, and there are rumours he will go back to Bora-Hansgrohe, but there is no certainty yet.
"For next year we will rely on Fabio Jakobsen's sprints because I'm sure his comeback will be a success."
Alaphilippe hasn't raced since taking second place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in late April but is set to return to the peloton at the Tour de Suisse next week.
Set to become a father this summer, the Frenchman is opting to skip the Tokyo Olympics a week after the Tour ends. He'll instead put full focus on Le Grand Boucle and a rainbow jersey defence in Flanders in late September.
"He's about to become a father and wants to be there," Lefevere said about Alaphilippe's choice to skip the Olympics. "And also, because he wants to do well at the Tour. He's changed his schedule.
"He's just come down from [training camp at] Sierra Nevada and he'll do the Tour de Suisse instead of the Critérium du Dauphiné, then the National Championships and the Tour.
"I told him that I hope he wins three more World Championships, but the experience of racing the Tour in the rainbow jersey is unrepeatable for now. He'll go to France to do Alaphilippe-like things and you'll see that he will find himself in the general classification as well.
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