Cavendish out of Scheldeprijs with flu, may start California

Former world champion could start in California after reexamining his season following an illness suffered in the middle of the classics

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Former world champion Mark Cavendish has pulled out of Wednesday’s Grand Prix Scheldeprijs because of flu, his Omega Pharma team has confirmed.

“This flu has really weakened him and for a rider like him it makes no sense to start at only 50percent of his form. So we decided to let him rest,” said team manager Patrick Lefevere. “We’re also going to rethink our program. He’ll probably be at the Tour of Turkey (April 27-May 4), at the Giro (May 9-June 1), or the Tour of California (May 11-18).”

Cavendish has close links with Scheldeprijs, which is held on a flat course in the countryside around Antwerp and is seen as ideal for sprinters. His victory in 2007 was the first big success of his career and he followed up in 2008 and 2011.

The 28-year-old former world champion also missed Gent-Wevelgem and Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne) in March.

“The Team for Scheldeprijs was originally built around Mark,” Omega Pharma director Wilfried Peeters said in a press release. “Unfortunately Mark won’t be at the start, so we will have to reconsider a bit our race strategy. However, in the team we have a few fast men that can be there in the final and go for the sprint. The race will be also an important preparation prior to Paris-Roubaix.”

In the absence of Cavendish and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who suffered a shoulder injury at Gent-Wevelgem, Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) will be a favorite to defend his title. Also expected to challenge are Andrea Guardini (Astana), Arnaud Demare (, and Milano-Sanremo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).