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Mark Cavendish: I'm not ready for the Tour de France

British Mark Cavendish of BahrainMerida pictured at stage 2 of the UAE Tour 2020 cycling race 168km from Hatta to Hatta Dam in Dubai United Arab Emirates Monday 24 February 2020 This years edition is taking place from 23 February to 29 February BELGA PHOTO YUZURU SUNADA FRANCE OUT Photo by YUZURU SUNADABELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Cavendish at the UAE Tour earlier this year (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Mark Cavendish has admitted that his form wasn’t good enough for him to be selected for this year's Tour de France. The 35-year-old has raced sporadically in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, with a heavily mountainous Tour route, Bahrain McLaren have put greater support behind GC leader Mikel Landa.

Cavendish hasn’t raced the Tour for two consecutive years but, unlike in 2019 when his omission from the Dimension Data team contributed to an acrimonious split, the 30-time Tour stage winner took to Twitter and backed Bahrain McLaren's decision to leave him at home.

"So you’ve probably seen that Team Bahrain McLaren has put their Tour de France team out and obviously I’m not on the list," Cavendish said in a short video message.

"Some people will be happy with that, and some will be disappointed. And there are going to be those journalists who do things for their own clicks. So I thought that I’d give my own thoughts and feelings on it. 

"Simply put, I just don’t think that I’m ready this year for the Tour de France. It’s the hardest parcours that I’ve seen during my career and I’m a rider who needs a lot of racing to get going. I’ve just not had that this year with COVID-19."

Cavendish joined Bahrain McLaren at the start of 2020 on a one-year deal in a move that saw him team up with his long-time mentor and coach Rod Ellingworth. The pair have a working relationship that goes back to Cavendish’s days on the British Cycling Academy and led to an incredible rainbow jersey win at the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen in 2011.

Since 2016 – arguably one of Cavendish’s best years as a WorldTour rider – the British sprinter has struggled for form and fitness. He was knocked for six by a long-standing virus in 2017 and only declared he was healthy last year. 

This season saw him double up as sprinter and lead-out man at times for his teammates but without a win under his belt – and more importantly, without his best form – it became increasingly difficult for the team to fit him into their Tour plans. Cavendish was magnanimous in admitting that he wasn’t ready and put his support behind Landa, who will be looking to improve on his fourth-place finish from 2017. 

With his one-year contract up at the end of the current campaign, Cavendish also strongly hinted that he would continue for at least one more season, and in doing so put to bed any speculation of retirement.

"With Bahrain-McLaren we do have an incredible GC contender in Mikel Landa, and we have an incredibly strong team to support him. I know that I’ll be supporting the team from wherever I am," Cavendish said. 

"But I’m looking forward, I’m super excited for the rest of the year. We’ve got some good goals and some good races lined up. I’m looking forward to using it in order to build into a big year next year too."