Cavendish, who ranks second on the all-time stage-win list with 30 Tour stages, will replace an injured Bennett. Julian Alaphilippe and Kasper Asgreen also headline a deep lineup for the Belgian team.
“Needless to say, I’m very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year’s Tour de France,” Bennett said. “I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which effected my knee. While the injury I sustained is very short-term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.”
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The Tour nod is the latest highlight in what’s been a season of revival for the Manxster, who finished last season in tears believing his career might be over.
Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere gave Cavendish a chance to end his illustrious career on his terms, and he’s paid back the favor with a string of victories this spring.
“I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France,” Cavendish said. “Obviously, the circumstances with Sam could be better – he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey. But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history. It is the biggest bike race in the world, and I am going to do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands.”
Reigning world champion Alaphilippe will return to the start hoping to animate the race and show the same attacking style and panache that saw him hold the yellow jersey for 14 days, officials said.
The team is rounded out by Ronde van Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke champion Asgreen, the Italian duo of Davide Ballerini and Mattia Cattaneo, Belgians Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns, as well as Danish lead-out master Michael Mørkøv.
“Our team is a balanced one. Julian came well out of the Tour de Suisse and the opening weekend suits him, so we’ll support him in his quest for a stage victory,” said sport director Tom Steels. “Mark returns to the Tour, and it’s great to have someone with his history and experience on the team.
“He will have a superb lead-out with Ballerini and Mørkøv, and the plan is to take it day by day and see how things go,” Steels said. “Kasper will also be one to watch, as there are a couple of stages where he can go in the breakaway, without mentioning the two individual time trials, where he can do something nice. Tim is one of the best helpers in the peloton, while Mattia and Dries will help Julian in the mountains and on the uphill finishes. We are confident and hopeful for a good three weeks.”