AMIENS, France (VN) —Mark Cavendish and Dimension Data are running out of time in the Tour de France with zero wins in six sprints. The first week ends tomorrow with Eddy Merckx’s record seemingly out of reach this 2018 edition for the British star.
Followers should never discount Cavendish, however. When the Manx train looked to be off track, he returned to win four times in 2016. That took him to 30 career stage victories in the Tour de France, four shy of matching the all-time record.
“It’s stressful not to get there, but the feelings are good and Cav is getting better but he hasn’t raced that much,” team boss Doug Ryder told VeloNews. “We believe in Cav, and we are hopeful.”
Cavendish has not raced a grand tour properly in two years. Last year, he began the Tour de France but a crash forced him out in stage four. Three crashes this year further disrupted his training and racing.
As he said many times since arriving in France before the Tour, his “back is against the wall” with the lead-up he had.
“We all want Cav to win, we want him to get closer to that legend level and that record,” Ryder added. “We are all disappointed for him, he’s disappointed, but it just shows how hard the sport is.
“We all hope for better, and so does he, and we continue to hope.”
If Cavendish fails to win in Roubaix on stage 9, which is within his reach, but in reality highly unlikely with Peter Sagan and other classics stars on the start line, his next chance will not come until Valence after three days in the Alpine mountains. Beyond that, he only has the stage to Pau and the final one in Paris.
One the back burner with an increasing flame is a 2019 contract. Ryder says he wants to keep the 33-year-old in the team, but price and season objectives will be an issue. And Cavendish wants steady support for what could be his last two editions of the Tour and towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ryder must also consider in future Tours how he manages the team around improving classification rider, South African Louis Meintjes, and if he signs him as rumors say, Greg Van Avermaet. How many men would he bring to support Cavendish or could the team shift focus entirely?
“It is difficult, and it goes down to the team strategy and what the sponsor interested in,” Ryder added. “There will come a time when we will have to decide if we shift the focus, but right now we will continue to support Cav, and we’ll continue to try to support Louis and try to do something with him in the years to come.”