Cyclingnews understands that Mark Cavendish will not be handed a place in Deceuninck–QuickStep's eight-rider roster for the Tour de France after Sam Bennett was cleared to race following his recovery from a knee injury that plagued his pre-Tour schedule.
Cavendish replaced Bennett in the Baloise Belgium Tour earlier this month and won the final stage of the race with a result that demonstrated his continued improvement in form and fitness.
The 30-time Tour de France stage winner also won four stages at the Tour of Turkey earlier this year. With doubts circling over Bennett’s condition, team boss Patrick Lefevere mulled over whether to send Cavendish to the Tour as a replacement sprinter.
The Manxman has travelled to Tuscany for some final training and was keen to return to the Tour but accepted that his ride depended on Bennett's fitness.
The Irishman was set a deadline of this week to prove that his knee injury had subsided. Cyclingnews understands that the winner of last year’s green points jersey has passed medical checks and so will head to Brittany next week for the Grand Départ and the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday June 26.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Cavendish reaffirmed his desire to go to the Tour de France but he acknowledged that Bennett remained the team’s plan-A in the sprints if he was fit.
"I’d love to go to the Tour, of course I would," Cavendish told The Telegraph. "Ultimately we have Sam Bennett who won two stages last year and the green jersey. He’s the logical guy to take. He’s the sprint leader of the team. But I’m sure Sam will only go if he’s 100 per cent fit.
"Obviously there is a lot of pressure on him as the green jersey winner to perform. I’m sure he will do what’s best for the team. Sam is a pro. I just have to be ready in case I’m needed."
Last weekend, Lefevere had used his column in the Belgian publication Het Nieuwsblad to discuss Bennett’s injury and he seemed to suggest that Cavendish’s chances of making the Tour team could also rest on his contract situation. The Manxman rejoined Lefevere’s stable at the start of the year after three disappointing years that were ruined by illness, a lack of form and struggles. He signed a one-year deal and has rediscovered his best sprinting legs with five wins already this year.
In the interview with The Telegraph, the most successful Tour de France sprinter of all time stated that his contract negotiations for next year were not a stumbling block for a possible Tour spot. He added that he would pack a suitcase for either a short stint of training in Italy or a shot at the Tour.
"I don’t know whether I’m going away for a week or a month. But I’m training as if I’m going to the Tour de France," he said.
"But listen, I wouldn't go to the Tour if I didn't think I could be competitive. Why would I go otherwise? Just to suffer in the hardest sporting event in the world? No. I'm not 20 anymore where I just dream of riding the Tour de France for the sake of it. I dream of riding the Tour de France because of what it means to me and because I believe I can be competitive.
"That's why I have a duty to be as prepared as I can be in case Sam doesn't make it. Ultimately, I didn't think I was going so I haven't prepared for it but now I have to prepare the best I can in a week."
Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.
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