Mark Cavendish’s hopes of a Tour de France comeback have been hurt by coronavirus.
Bahrain-McLaren Team Boss, Rod Ellingworth said that the suspension of racing due to the global pandemic means Cav has missed out on chances to prove himself ready to make the squad.
The Brit sprint star was left out of the Tour by his old team last year, but was hoping for a fresh start when he moved to Bahrain-McLaren for 2020, teaming up with his old coach and mentor Ellingworth.
But after starting his season in supporting roles in the Middle East, Cavendish has missed out on opportunities to hone his form after the UCI suspended all racing in March.
In 2019 Ellingworth, a founding member of Team Sky - who left the British squad for the top spot at Bahrain-Mclaren said:
“We made an agreement that if he was winning races, that would be enough to go to the Tour”
“Unfortunately that changes and with so little racing beforehand it cuts his chances of being able to prove he’s back at a decent level.”
Ellingworth added that Cavendish, who is now with Bahrain-McLaren on a one-year contract after struggling through illness and injury in recent season, is still technically one of the best sprinters in the world and that he contributes to the team with his mindset and goal-setting.
While Cavendish has not been given a guaranteed spot on the Tour squad, even with his star status, Ellingworth said the 35-year-old wouldn’t want a place handed to him if he didn’t have the form.
Despite being the most successful sprinter in Tour de France history, with 30 stage wins to his name, Cavendish hasn’t crossed the line first for more than two years and hasn’t won a Tour stage since 2016.
WorldTour racing is currently scheduled to return in August, giving Cavendish just a month to score some results in smaller races before the Tour starts in Nice on August 29.
It will no doubt be a tough decision to make, with one of the all time best sprinters in the squad, nearing the end of his career, on only a 1-year contract. However, despite the history between Ellingworth and Cav, Bahrain-Mclaren will likely take a pretty clinical view of team selection for the Tour. They have made no secret of the fact they plan to compete for the GC, so it's likely the squad will be built around that. It's even possible if Cav did make the cut, that we would be faced with another 2012 scenario, with the World Champ Jersey wearer carrying bottles and running errands on a Yellow Jersey orientated team.
This news comes only a matter of weeks after Cav is also set to miss out on the (now delayed) Tokyo Olympics Track Squad. Missing the last round of the Track World Cup, and not being selected for the Track World Champs means he would not qualify for selection.
Cavendish had voiced his desire to ride the Madison in Tokyo, with the event returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. Cavendish rode with Bradley Wiggins and the pair - world champions at the time - finished a disappointing eighth.
Cavendish was the only member of GB's track team to leave Beijing without a medal and, although he grabbed an Olympic silver in the Omnium in Rio in 2016, he since still harboured hopes of gold.
Cavendish, a three-time Madison world champion, faced competition for selection from riders more focused on the track, given there are just five spaces in the endurance squad, four of which will be an established team pursuit quartet. Cavendish was ready to step into the pursuit squad in Rio - but hasn't been part of the team in this Olympic cycle.
"You still want to have five that can ride the team pursuit, so to have someone who is solely a Madison specialist in there and doesn't have any other availability isn't the perfect scenario," said Team GB Coach Iain Dyer in December.
With a series of setbacks plaguing Cav in the last few seasons, including recurring illness (Epstein-Barr Virus), it's hard to tell if he will manage to come back for one last bite of the cherry. We certainly would love to see him sprint again, but it could be that he doesn’t quite make it back to the sharp end of the peloton.