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Cavendish confident that Bahrain-McLaren’s Tour squad will be chosen ‘on fair judgement’

It remains to be seen if the 35-year-old can prove to team Bahrain-McLaren bosses that he's worthy of a start in this year's Tour.

Mark Cavendish is pushing back on reports that Bahrain-McLaren could snub him at this year’s Tour de France.

Cavendish took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to say that he is just like every other rider on the Bahrain-McLaren roster. He would love to attend the Tour de France, but ultimately the roster decisions are up to the team’s management to make.

“With [Mikel Landa] as a firm GC favourite & with an incredibly talented group of 29 riders, if I do or don’t fit into a specific strategy, I’m confident it will be on fair judgement and with discussion from people I trust and who are world leaders in the sport, just the same as every other rider on the team,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter.

Cavendish was responding to a report in the PA news agency that suggested he may be left off the squad entirely. The agency quoted Bahrain-McLaren Principal Rod Ellingworth, who said Cavendish, “doesn’t have an automatic selection for the Tour and he doesn’t want it just handed to him. But we made an agreement that if he was winning races that would be enough to go to the Tour.”

Cavendish had just 10 days of pro racing in his legs before the coronavirus shutdown, and the sprinter has not raced since the penultimate stage of the UAE Tour back in February.

Interest in Cavendish’s Tour de France participation stems from his place in the race’s history. With 30 stage victories he trails only Eddy Merckx with 34 stage wins on the race’s all-time win list. Cavendish hasn’t won at the Tour since 2016, but interest in his push to break Merckx’s record has followed him through the past three seasons.

In his interview Ellingworth added, “Technically he’s one of the best sprinters in the world, and if he’s got the form he’s proved many times he can do it with or without a lead-out train.”

However, with little racing happening due to the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March, Cavendish, like other riders, has had few opportunities to prove race-worthiness.

In another tweet, the prolific racer from the Isle of Man dismissed the reports as click-bait, and indicated that with a five-month lay-off from racing, all riders are under the same scrutiny.

“Personally, I’d always love to go to [the Tour de France], or any race, only if I felt I could add value to the team, or if I believed I held the best chance of success for the team,” Cavendish added. “I think the majority of professionals feel the same way about their position.”

 

Cavendish had a rocky 2018 and 2019, and earlier this season he opened up about his battle with depression in recent years.

“It’s not just been my physical health which has been dealt a blow over the last couple of years,” he told reporters. “I’ve battled quite hard with depression during this time. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, in August 2018.”

Suffering from the Epstein-Barr virus in 2019, Cavendish did not get a Tour start with Team Dimension Data.

Earlier this spring, Ellingworth said the believes Cavendish was not far off the form of his peak year in 2016 when he won four stages on the Tour de France.

“His form is not like 2016, but he’s getting there,” the team director said.

Cav is on a one-year contract with Bahrain-McLaren, which has also recently added Mikel Landa, who left Movistar after a tumultuous 2019 season that saw confused leadership.

Cavendish and Bahrain-McLaren are slated to return to racing at the Vuelta Burgos in Spain in late July, but race organizers have yet to confirm that the race will go off as planned.