Mark Cavendish has hit back at reports that he may not make Bahrain-McLaren’s selection for the Tour de France due to lack of racing, pointing out that comments made by team principal Rod Ellingworth in an interveiw with BBC Sport “would be generic to 99 per cent” of the team's riders.
In a series of tweets, Cavendish, who described it as “a small, almost nothing, story” also pointed out that currently, “every rider is in the same boat with lack of races to show form.”
Originally due to start in Nice on 27 June, the Grand Depart of the three-week race has been pushed back to 29 August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With racing currently suspended by the UCI until 1 August at the earliest, the 35-year-old will have minimal opportunities to prove his race fitness before the Tour.
Ellingworth, who coached Cavendish as a teenager as he came up through the British Cycling system and later masterminded his 2011 road world championship victory in Copenhagen, told BBC Sport: “He doesn't have automatic selection and he doesn't want it.
“He doesn't want it just handed to him. But 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.”
If he failed to make the team, where Bahrain-McLaren’s principal target is the yellow jersey through Mikel Landa, it would be the second year running that Cavendish has missed the race.
Last year, he was omitted from the Dimension Data team, denying him the chance to build on his 30 stage victories and try and close in on Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stages.
His last participation in the race came in 2018 when he crashed out on the fourth stage in an incident that resulted in then world champion Peter Sagan expelled from the Tour.
The fact that the team’s target is the general classification puts Cavendish in a similar situation to the one he found himself in back in 2012 when he and Ellingworth were both with Team Sky.
Despite the focus being Bradley Wiggins’ pursuit of the overall title, Cavendish, who was aiming to win the road race at the London Olympics a week after the Tour finished, still took four stages, including what remains his final victory on the Champs-Elysees.
Ellingworth still has faith in Cavendish’s abilities, saying: “Technically he's one of the best sprinters in the world, and if he's got the form he's proved many times he can do it with or without a lead-out train.
“Mark brings a lot of value to the team, just in terms of his mindset and his goal-setting,” he added.
Following that season with Team Sky, Cavendish moved to Omega-Quick Step, where the following year he won the points jersey at the Giro d’Italia to join a select group of riders to have won the competition in all three Grand Tours.
He joined Team Dimension Data in 2016 and won four stages at that year’s Tour de France.
However, the following year, he was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus which causes infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever.
Since then, he has won just one race on the road, a stage of the Dubai Tour in February 2018.
Earlier this year, he revealed that the illness – which he has said was mismanaged by his team medical staff – had left him with depression, but he had recovered.
I’m on the other side, thank you,” he told Matt Dickinson of The Times. ”Well, as much as I can be. I think I’ve come out of that. And it’s nice to have come out of that. And to look for the positives.”
> Mark Cavendish reveals “dark” struggle with depression
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