Mark Cavendish left out of race for second year in a row

Mark Cavendish talking to his Bahrain McLaren team car during a race
Mark Cavendish also won omnium silver on the track at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Mark Cavendish says he would not have been ready to race at this year’s Tour de France after being left out of Bahrain McLaren’s squad.

It is the second year in a row the 35-year-old has missed the Tour, having not been selected by previous team Dimension Data in 2019.

The British sprinter has won 30 Tour stages, four short of Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 victories.

“I just don’t feel I’m ready this year for the Tour de France,” he said.

The rescheduled Tour begins on 29 August in Nice and runs until 20 September.

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Bahrain McLaren team principal Rod Ellingworth said in May that Cavendish was not an automatic pick for this year’s Tour and that his preparation had been hampered by a lack of races because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cavendish has raced 24 times this season, with no victories, having at times ridden in a support role for other riders.

In a video posted on Twitter, Cavendish said this year’s Tour route is the “hardest” he has seen in his career.

“I’m a rider that needs a lot of races to get going and I just haven’t had that this year with Covid-19,” he added.

Before last year Cavendish had raced in every Tour since making his debut in 2007 and in 2011 he became the first Briton to win the green points jersey, also winning the world road race title that year.

He struggled with illness for nearly two years after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr Virus – which causes glandular fever – in April 2017.

The Manxman resumed racing two months after his initial diagnosis but broke his collarbone as he crashed out of the 2017 Tour and took a further break from the sport in August 2018.

Cavendish joined Bahrain McLaren on a one-year deal in October 2019 to rejoin former coach Ellingworth, who spent almost a decade at Team Sky.

Bahrain McLaren will focus on the general classification ambitions of leader Mikel Landa at the Tour.

The Spaniard finished fourth in the 2017 Tour and will be supported by a strong team that includes climbers Damiano Caruso, Pello Bilbao and former Team Sky rider Wout Poels.

“This year’s parcours is very well suited to Mikel, and his form is strong,” said Ellingworth.

“The group we have chosen to support him represents our riders who are most suited to the parcours and Tour-ready.”

Cavendish said Landa is an “incredible” contender for the yellow jersey and that he will be “supporting the team from wherever I am”.

“I’m super-excited for the rest of the year,” he added. “We’ve got some good goals and some good races lined up and I’m looking forward to using it to build into a big year next year too.”

Bahrain McLaren Tour squad

Mikel Landa (Spa)

Pello Bilbao (Spa)

Damiano Caruso (Ita)

Wout Poels (Ned)

Sonny Colbrelli (Ita)

Marco Haller (Aut)

Rafa Valls (Spa)

Matej Mohoric (Slo)

source: BBC sports/cycling

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