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The team announced its roster yesterday without Cavendish, who has raced the Tour every year since 2007 and has won 30 stages.
“I’m absolutely heart-broken by the decision that means I won’t be [at the Tour de France] this year,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter.
“As I have done for my entire career, I targeted a specific time to be at peak form. This has pretty much always resulted in me hitting my goals or coming damn close.
“Predominantly at the most beautiful, special race that is Le Tour de France, where 30 of these victories have defined my career. After a long, difficult fight back from trying to compete for the whole of last season with Epstein Barr Virus and after following a specific training program to peak in July, I feel I was in the perfect place.”
Newspaper L’Equipe named Cavendish as the Tour’s best ever sprinter. His haul of stage wins is just four shy of the record 34 by Eddy Merckx.
However, the last two years Cavendish was unable to win a single stage. He crashed out in 2017 and abandoned in the mountains in 2018. After last year’s race, Cavendish was diagnosed with Epstein Barr.
Cavendish returned to racing in 2019, but has yet to win a WorldTour race. His best finish was third place in a stage at the Tour of Turkey. At the recent Tour of Slovenia, Cavendish did not factor into the sprints, and he finished a distant 22nd at the recent British national road championships.
Yet Cavendish continued with his usual Tour preparations. He completed an altitude training block, riding up to the Col de la Bonette, and an altitude camp in Austria.
According to the Press Association, the team’s top brass disagreed on Cavendish’s 2019 Tour participation. The team’s head of performance, Rolf Aldag, wanted him to race, but team principal Doug Ryder made the final call.
“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 year’s Tour de France,” Ryder said when the team roster was released.
In a later statement regarding Cavendish, the team said, “Selection for our Tour squad was a highly-competitive process and one in which a panel weighed up the options provided to us not only by Mark but indeed all of our riders.
“As you’d expect among a selection panel, there were a number of different preferences of the final squad make-up with our team principal, Doug Ryder, making the final decision on it.
“This selection is one the team believes will be best suited to meet the goals set out for the race.”
Cavendish joined the South African team in 2016. Last year, he extended his contract one year through 2019. It is uncertain if he will renew with the team or continue with a different team in 2020.