Deceuninck-Quickstep’s head Patrick Lefevere has questioned the actions of sprinter Sam Bennett after he was dropped from the Belgian side’s Tour de France squad.
Bennett had been expected to defend his 2020 green jersey in what is likely his final season with the team, as it was believed that a minor knee injury would not be an obstacle to his training or participation.
However in a surprise development, veteran Mark Cavendish stepped in to replace the Irishman for the Grand Tour.
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Cavendish had already taken Bennett’s place at the Baloise Belgium Tour after the team’s lead sprinter knocked his knee on the handlebars of his bike during training. Cavendish won the final stage after also impressing at the Tour of Turkey, leading to speculation that he would also ride at the Tour de France. Lefevere later commented that he did not think Bennett would want or need competition for the event.
Speaking to Sporza, the team head then questioned Bennett’s mindset, saying: "I can't prove he doesn't have knee pain, but I'm starting to think more and more that it's more fear of failure than just pain."
He also told Belgian outlet Het Laatste Nieuws that he disputed some of the information he was given by his rider: "We thought Bennett was on the right track. Then it turns out that he has told us anything but the truth. He said three different things to three different people on the squad. That's not the way it's played.
"Bennett was supposed to fly to Belgium on Sunday evening. First, we were told his flight was delayed. That turned out to be the case. Then there was talk of overbooking. And then it is precisely Bennett who no longer gets a seat on the plane? I am not suspicious by nature, but then I start to ask myself questions."
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He continued: "Behind our backs, he turns out to have gone to a physiotherapist in Monaco, who said he could train better. Some kind of miracle man, you know that.
"It's a shame that a 30-year-old guy doesn't dare to tell the truth. With the exception of Julian Alaphilippe, we had built the whole squad around him. So Cavendish takes his place."
With Cavendish now 36 and after a few years of struggles with illness and form, Lefevre is not asking too much of the late sub.
"As for Mark Cavendish, expectations are not too high,” he said.
“He's not 30 years old anymore. He is pleased, he is as nervous as if he was riding his first race in the juniors. If he doesn't win, everyone will think it's normal. If he wins, everyone will put him on a throne."
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