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The Tour de France’s top sprinter Mark Cavendish will miss the race for the first time since his 2007 debut.
Team Dimension Data confirmed its decision to leave Cavendish off of its roster today when it released its eight-man squad for the Tour. Cavendish, who counts 30 stage wins, is the most prolific sprinter in Tour history. He sits second on the Tour’s list of stage winners behind Eddy Merckx, who has 34 stage victories.
Team Principal Douglas Ryder said the roster construction is aimed at making the team “competitive in every stage.”
“Really excited to announce this great group of riders who we feel will be the best suited to meet the team’s objectives we have set out for this years Tour de France,” Ryder said. “It’s a tough course but one that we’d like to be competitive in every stage, while at the same time continuing with our goal of changing lives through bicycles.”
Cavendish hoped to have a shot at that record, but lining up for the race, which begins Saturday in Brussels became impossible after he struggled through a season of disappointment. Cavendish is winless thus far in 2019, his best result is a third place finish at a stage of the Tour of Turkey. Last year, Cavendish dropped out of the Tour in the mountains and later discovered he was suffering from Epstein-Barr.
Cavendish sat out the second half of the 2018 season. He returned to racing in 2019, but never reached that same ‘Cav’ level that fans were used to seeing. He last raced the Tour of Slovenia and the British National Championships, finishing 22nd.
It is the first Tour he misses since he began racing it in 2007. In 2009, he won six stage wins and five each in the following two years. In 2017 and 2018, he went home with zero. This year, he will not even have the chance to add to his tally.
Rather than build itself around Cavendish, Dimension Data will likely target stage victories with its well-rounded lineup of opportunists. Edvald Boasson Hagen and Giacomo Nizzolo will target sprint and hilly stages. Breakaway specialist Steve Cummings has shown himself capable of winning hard stages in the mountains. And classics specialist Michael Valgren will target the Tour’s hilly stages.
American Ben King will also carry the team’s ambitions in the mountainous and hilly stages.
“I finally got the call that I’ve been waiting for!” King said. “For many Americans, the Tour is the only race that they know so it’s a huge deal. I can finally tell everyone who asks every year ‘Yes, I’ll be there.’ It’s a massive honour but also a huge responsibility, there’s really nothing like it.”
It is King’s second participation in the Tour, after making his debut in 2014. King has show himself capable of winning from a breakaway after taking two stages at the 2018 Vuelta a España.
Dimension Data’s roster also includes Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Michael Valgren Andersen, Roman Kreuziger, and Lars Bak.
It now becomes uncertain when and where Cavendish will race next. Or for how long he will continue.
His contract with Dimension Data runs through the end of 2019. The idea had been that the 34-year-old would at least continue through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.