Monday afternoon. That’s when the official announcement is expected surrounding Mark Cavendish’s potential involvement in the 2022 Tour de France.
His Quick-Step AlphaVinyl squad had planned on releasing its official Tour roster on Tuesday, but within a couple of hours of Cavendish’s all-conquering display at the British national championships the unveiling of Patrick Lefevere’s team had been pushed forward a full 24 hours.
Can anything be determined from that shift? Probably not, but Cavendish couldn’t have done any more to persuade Lefevere into a last-minute change of mind after his second national title and first since 2013.
In 2021 injury settled the final selection for Lefevere’s Tour de France team. Sam Bennett was ditched due to a dodgy knee, and Cavendish was called up. It was a simple like-for-like replacement, but this time the matter has been far more complex.
Fabio Jakobsen, the premier sprinter on the team this year, has been built up as QuickStep’s Tour sprinter for most of the year. He’s not put a foot wrong either, winning races and staying healthy.
Not only that, but Jakobsen is the future of the team and has a contract for next season. Cavendish complicates the situation because bringing him to the Tour de France would be both pragmatic and emotional. The 37-year-old is still incredibly competitive, but winning the nationals on a demanding course in Scotland is not the same as the Tour de France, and there are no guarantees that the veteran sprinter can take the record-setting tally of 35 stage wins to edge him clear of Eddy Merckx in the record books.
Displacing Jakobsen this close to the Tour could also have a detrimental effect on his relationship with the team for years to come.
On the other hand, one could easily argue that one Cavendish stage win would be worth more publicity than several victories for Jakobsen. And that given Cavendish’s form throughout the campaign so far, he clearly has the speed to deliver.
At the finish in Scotland the new men’s British champion was understandably buoyant after his impressive win. It was a pure racer’s performance, full of guile and enterprise, and capped off with an explosive sprint.
What was telling, however, was Cavendish’s clear and decisive message in his post-race interview. He rarely makes off-the-cuff comments, and his tailored words post-race were directed towards two audiences. First and foremost, to his fans: Get behind me, take to social media, and help me persuade Lefevere to take me to the Tour de France.
“Imagine getting the 35th Tour de France stage in the British champs jersey, it would be pretty beautiful,” he said.
The message worked.
British road race champion! Of course, @MarkCavendish didn't do too well in last year's Tour, only winning four stages and that Green Jersey but at least it looks like he's going better this year. Come on @PatLefevere do the right thing and MAKE HISTORY. #onemorewin
— Jez Cox (@JezCox) June 26, 2022
And secondly, he wanted to address his employers.
“I came good out of the Giro and I’m going so much better than last year, and you know what happened last year – I won four stages of the Tour de France and the green jersey. I haven’t had a call from the team one way or the other. I’ve trained as if I’m going to the Tour, you can see my condition is there, I know if I went, I’d win.”
The matter of Jakobsen versus Cavendish looked settled weeks ago. Now, at the 11th hour the door is still open. Everything Lefevere has said and done this year still points to Jakobsen, but Cavendish is doing everything in his powers to sway his team boss. Monday afternoon will determine whether it has worked.