Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team boss Patrick Lefevere has opened the door for Mark Cavendish to challenge for a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage win this July.
Speaking after his sprinter's impressive win on the second stage of the UAE Tour, Lefevere teased reporters and fans alike, saying one of Fabio Jakobsen or Cavendish will be selected for the Tour.
Which one? "The best one goes," Lefevere answered in an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
In January, Jakobsen asserted he was the team's sprinter for the Tour, suggesting Cavendish would race the Giro d'Italia instead.
However, Lefevere refused to confirm the Dutch sprinter's comments, saying instead: "I do know that Fabio Jakobsen said at the media day in Calpe at the beginning of January that he is going, but I have a long list.
"I don't like to answer such questions today. I'm not Madame Soleil. So much can still happen. See last year… The best one goes to the Tour and then has to finish it with all the sprinters.
"I'm especially happy that my two sprinters are marching. I had four last season. Alvaro Hodeg went to UAE Team Emirates but was out for a long time due to an accident. And Bennett is a different story.
"Anyway, Cavendish is already on the list of the Giro. Then we'll see."
The Manx Missile's first WorldTour win of 2022 came in impressive fashion as he outsprinted stage one winner Jasper Philipsen, having kicked with well over 200m to the line.
.@MarkCavendish’s 158th pro win 🚀
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) February 21, 2022
"On the first image I saw on TV I didn't know who won, but when I watched the full sprint again you saw that Philipsen never got over Mark," Lefevere continued.
"Then [stage one on Sunday] it was a sprint with tailwind. He [Cav] was more stressed there. Now it was much more fighting and it was also about the power he got from his little legs. He also left at the ideal moment, just around the corner. Everyone thinks it's normal for Cavendish to win, but it's not always that normal."
One man who does think it normal for Cavendish to be winning is the 36-year-old's great rival — André Greipel.
The German sprinter retired at the end of last season but predicted Cavendish will continue to be "the fastest".
"You could clearly see in the Tour of Oman that Mark is still the fastest," Greipel said ahead of yesterday's win.
"I see no reason to leave him at home. I saw early last year that he was back on the level. I was called crazy when I said that, but look how many Tours sprints he won. It's not my decision, but I wouldn't think it smart not to take him to France."
Cavendish's teammate Jakobsen has also started the campaign in fine form, winning two stages of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and two stages of Volta ao Algarve, as well as the points jersey at both races.
After returning to Belgium for Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne this Sunday, the 25-year-old will race Paris-Nice in March before some more one-day races.
Cavendish, by contrast, has only been provisionally entered for the Giro d'Italia. Where he turns up next will be very interesting.
In the more immediate future will be the two remaining flat days at this year's UAE Tour. Later today the peloton will race a short individual time trial, before the first summit finish tomorrow.
Who would you take to the Tour de France? Cav? Fabio? Both? Let us know in the comments...
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.