Mark Cavendish has described his return to the Tour de France as a dream after his surprise call-up to the Deceuninck-QuickStep squad. Cavendish was set to miss the Tour de France but an injury to Sam Bennett meant that the Irishman was dropped from the eight-man team with Cavendish taking his spot.
A 30-time stage winner in the race, Cavendish has missed the last two editions, but after a spring in which he won five races the veteran looks in prime condition to add to his incredible tally, especially given the fact that there are up to eight potential stage wins for the sprinters in this year’s race.
“It’s already more than a dream to be here at the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep. Eighty per cent of the peloton dream of getting a start with this team and if I had sat here a year ago and thought I’d have been in this spot… I have some belief but even that I wouldn’t have believed.
"So I’m already happy because I know that with this team we’ve got the best opportunities to be successful,” a beaming Cavendish told the press on Wednesday during his team’s press conference.
Cavendish admitted that the call-up to the team came as a surprise, although in the week leading up to the race he had told the Daily Telegraph that he had packed a suitcase on the basis that he might make the team.
At that point, Bennett was 50-50 but Cavendish now finds himself part of one of the strongest team’s in the race with Julian Alaphilippe targeting the yellow jersey and Michael Morkov part of a hugely successful lead-out train that will aim to carry Cavendish to within touching distance of the line.
The sprinter paid tribute to the strength within the squad and compared the support he has in this year’s race with some of the previous rosters that he has been part of in the last few years.
“I was a last-minute call up and I haven’t specifically prepared for the Tour de France but I’ve raced with the majority of the sprinters and beat the majority of the sprinters who are here a week ago. That gives me confidence and gives me confidence with the lads around me,” Cavendish said.
“It’s not like how I came here with previous teams and am just left here to my own devices. Obviously, I want to give everything and I know that if we commit to the process then we have the best shot of anyone of winning in the bunch sprints.
"I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a surprise but I had prepared for it anyway. I didn’t have much coming up, there’s not much racing coming up, and theirs is a bit of a down period anyway so you might as well prepare just in case something like this happens.”
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