Mark Cavendish has been announced in the Deceuninck-QuickStep team for the Tour de France, just days after team boss Patrick Lefevere announced that the British sprinter would remain at home for the Grand Tour.
Sam Bennett was down to take part in the race and defend his green jersey but, according to the team, the Irishman failed to respond to treatment to his injured knee, with Cavendish being drafted in on Monday morning.
On Friday, Lefevere ruled out bringing Cavendish to the Tour de France, stating that Bennett would get the complete backing of the team after he had recovered from injury.
"The deal was that Bennett should go and if he's OK, like he's said he's OK, then we wouldn't go with two sprinters. From what I understand from his DS, his knee is better and today he’s doing another long training session but normally he should be OK," Lefevere told Cyclingnews from his office on Friday.
However, on Monday the Belgian team changed course, with Bennett set to recover at home while Cavendish has been drafted in with the aim of adding to his tally of 30 Tour de France stages.
"Needless to say, I’m very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year’s Tour de France," Bennett said in a press release.
"I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which affected my knee. While the injury I sustained is very short-term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit. Le Tour deserves me at my best and it would do my team, and myself, an injustice to race in my current condition. I wish the whole Wolfpack a successful three weeks on the road of France."
Cavendish, after four seasons of struggling with illness, was on the brink of retirement before Lefevere and sponsor Specialized threw him a lifeline this year and he has repaid the team with five victories so far. He was delighted to make the selection and take part in his first Tour de France since 2018.
"I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep. Obviously, the circumstances with Sam could be better – he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey. But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history," Cavendish said.
"It is the biggest bike race in the world, and I am going to do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands."
There are no other significant changes to Deceuninck-QuickStep's Tour de France team, with world champion Julian Alaphilippe leading the squad. Cavendish will work alongside lead-out man Michael Mørkøv, while the squad is rounded out by Tour of Flanders champion Kasper Asgreen, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad champion Davide Ballerini, the in-form Mattia Cattaneo and domestiques Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns.
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