The 34-year-old has been battling the effects of the Epstein Barr virus for two years, only this spring finally being declared below the threshold for still being considered ill with the virus. His best result this year has been a third place on a stage of the Tour of Turkey behind Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The decision to leave him off the Tour de France squad was a controversial one, and it highlighted fractures in the Dimension Data management team, with head of performance Rolf Aldag going to bat for Cavendish and team principal Doug Ryder ultimately deciding against his inclusion.
"I'm absolutely heartbroken by the decision that means I won't be at the Tour this year," Cavendish said at the time. "As I have done for my entire career, I targeted a specific time to be at peak form. This has pretty much always resulted in me hitting my goals or coming damn close."
The sprinter will be joined in the Adriatica Ionica Race by soon-to-be-retired lead-out man Mark Renshaw, along with road captain Bernard Eisel, Rasmus Tiller, Louis Meintjes, Danilo Wyss and Ryan Gibbons in the five-day event. Last year, Cavendish narrowly missed out on a stage win on the final day of the race behind Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
The race begins with a 90-minute evening criterium in Venice before kicking into the stage-race proper with one flat 189km stage to Grado, a mountain finish in Tre Cime di Lavaredo, a lumpy 204.5km stage to Monte Quarin and the final stage from Cormons to Trieste, with six finishing circuits.
Last year's race was won by Ivan Sosa (Team Ineos), with 2019 Tour de France yellow jersey holder Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) the runner-up. This year's favourites include Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First), UAE Team Emirates' Jan Polanc, Vuelta a San Juan champion Winner Anacona (Movistar) and Tour of Austria winner Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy).
Cavendish might find the opening stage to his liking, although he'll be up against a host of sprinters including Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep), EF Education First's Sacha Modolo, Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Merida) and Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates).