Deceuninck-Quickstep head Patrick Lefevre has explained that he did not want to bring Mark Cavendish to the Tour de France because it might undermine Sam Bennett’s confidence.
Bennett was suffering from a knee injury that forced his withdrawal from the Baloise Belgium Tour, with Cavendish replacing him and winning the final stage. That put the Irishman’s involvement in the Tour de France in doubt, and raised the prospect of Cavendish’s involvement.
However Bennett has now been declared fit to train hard for the Grand Depart on June 26, denying the Manx rider the chance to win his 30th Grand Tour stage.
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Speaking to Cyclingnews.com, Lefevre explained his decision.
"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,” he said.
“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 okay.”
Lefevre was worried that Cavendish’s presence alongside Bennett would have proved a distraction for his lead sprint.
"If you bring Mark then you saw what happened in Scheldeprijs [ed - the team missed out on victory, with Bennett finishing second and Cavendish third]," he said.
"Sam isn’t the strongest in his own head. If everything goes well then he becomes stronger and stronger, as we saw in the Tour last year, but if he has doubts and we bring someone like the second sprinter, and he has Mark Cavendish on his wheel, he becomes nervous about this. Very nervous.
We want to be counting on Sam 200 per cent, honest and fair, even though he leaves the team. There are some teams that if you don’t re-sign they won't bring you to the Tour but I never get involved in that sort of case."
Fabio Jakobsen will be the sprint contender at the Vuelta a Espana this summer, meaning there is little else for Cavendish to do for the remainder of the season.
"There are no races for him at the moment,” Lefevre confirmed.
“During the Tour de France, he has no other races. The Tour of Austria has been cancelled, so the first races are at the end of July and the beginning of August. We have to look and have a small meeting with the team but when I spoke to Mark last we talked about the fact that there are no flat races. If you look at the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse there are no sprints anymore – a sprint with 30 riders isn’t a bunch sprint. It’s a pity for guys like Mark and Fabio.
"The Vuelta, though, is in Fabio's programme. He does the nationals and then he trains with the team and then it’s the Vuelta. Honestly, there’s not been a discussion yet about Mark and the Vuelta. He went to the Tour of Belgium and it was fantastic that he won but we’ve not talked about the Vuelta."
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"For Mark, I just hope that he can race. Every rider wants to race but we took him last minute and lots of races like Tour Down Under, Argentina, and many more were cancelled. Finally, he could do the Tour of Turkey where he won four stages but he’s been unlucky with the race cancellations.
"Mark is in really good shape but he’s gone through a long process. For two years he almost wasn’t a rider anymore and then he had the opportunity to come with us. The parcours haven’t been great for him in many races this season.
"At the beginning, he wanted one year and he didn’t want to finish as he did in 2020. He has a lot of confidence after his win in Belgium and he’s like a kid again on the bike. He’s always smiling and even when it goes badly the real Mark Cavendish comes back and talks about his next goal. Everyone in the team loves him."
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