Mark Cavendish could miss out on the chance to become the all-time leading Tour de France stage winner with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl set to prefer Fabio Jakobsen for the 2022 edition.
Cavendish made a sensational return to the race in the familiar colours of the Belgian team in 2021, winning four stages to draw level with Eddy Merckx on 34 career stage victories.
His first stage victory was his first at the three-week summer centrepiece for five years after battling the Epstein-Barr virus and other health issues.
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While the Manxman recently extended his contract with Quick-Step, Jakobsen has suggested that he believes it will be him favoured by the team for the lead sprinter's berth in France, with Cavendish lined up for the Giro d'Italia.
"That’s the schedule that has now been plotted,” Jakobsen told Wielerflits about a potential return to the Tour from the Quick-Step camp in Spain. "I feel good about it and I want to try it.
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"Of course, you have to be good enough for it, but in the team the people who understand it think it’s possible.
"The Tour is the highest achievement in our sport for a sprinter, apart from the world championships and Milano-Sanremo, as a monument. I am very motivated."
Jakobsen is yet to ride the Tour in his career.
The 24-year-old return to Grand Tour racing at the 2021 Vuelta a Espana having faced a long recovery after crashing heavily at the 2020 Tour of Poland.
Having won three stages at the Vuelta, Jakobsen believes he merits a place at the Tour, though admits it would be cruel were Cavendish to miss out with Quick-Step unlikely to select more than one specialist sprinter.
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Quick-Step general manager Patrick Lefevere conceded at the training camp that he did not know if Cavendish would ride the Tour.
“Do I feel guilty towards Mark Cavendish? Yes, though guilty isn’t the right word. Because I think I deserve it too. And if I’m not good enough, I don’t go,” Jakobsen said.
“Cavendish knows that the Tour is my goal and that he will ride the Giro himself. But he is ready as a reserve. He can do that like no other and I think he’s happy with that role. His contract was of course only signed at the end of December, when the first plan [for the season] had already been made."
Cavendish is coming back from a serious fall while racing on the track in November, suffering a collapsed lung and broken ribs.
He was also the target of an armed burglary in the same month, but has vowed to "bounce back".
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