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No room for Mark Cavendish at new Soudal-Quick-Step project

'He is not part of our project' — Patrick Lefevere says Manx sprinter won't feature in new-look Soudal-Quick-Step in 2023.

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There won’t be room for Mark Cavendish in the new Soudal-Quick-Step project next year.

That’s according to team boss Patrick Lefevere, who told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the UK sprinter isn’t part of the team’s plans for 2023.

“He will not stay, I think not, it is not possible. It hurts my heart,” Lefevere told the Italian daily. “I would like, but every now and then the time comes to say thank you for everything he has done for the team and I hope vice versa. I know he wants to race for another two years, but he is not part of our project.”

Also read: No Mark Cavendish or Julian Alaphilippe as Quick-Step focuses on Fabio Jakobsen at Tour de France

Those words could mark the end of Cavendish’s run at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, which he rejoined in 2021 with stunning results capped by winning four stages at the Tour de France and the green jersey last year.

Cavendish was overlooked for the Tour selection in favor of Fabio Jakobsen, who won the first sprint stage of the 2022 Tour.

Cavendish’s agent told VeloNews in an earlier interview that the former world champion is looking for a two-year contract going into 2023.

Tied with the Eddy Merckx stage-win record, Cavendish will be looking for a team that can guarantee him a shot at returning to the Tour next season.

Five-year deal with Soudal

Lefevere lauded the five-year deal for Soudal to join as title sponsor as the longest in his career as a team manager.

“This is the first time in my career I can announced a five-year partnership,” Lefevere said Monday on the Tour’s second rest day. “That’s why I am still here and not retired yet.”

Soudal leaves another Belgian team, Lotto-Soudal, to join Lefevere because sponsor representatives said they wanted a larger, more international exposure that comes with the prolific Lefevere team.

The presence of budding Belgian superstar Remco Evenepoel, expected to make his Tour debut in 2023, was another reason.

Belgian media reported that the Soudal deal will give Lefevere even deeper pockets to sign riders going forward.

Lefevere has 15 riders coming off contract at the end of 2022, but many are expected to stay on. Wielerfliets reported that Yves Lampaert, the winner of the opening stage in Copenhagen and the yellow jersey for one day, is close to signing an extension.

Lotto-Soudal will be rebranded as Lotto-Dstny for 2023.

Julian Alaphilippe to race Vuelta a España

Lefevere also confirmed the return calendar for two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe.

The French star was forced to miss the Tour following a string of heavy crashes this spring, including one at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.

Alaphilippe is training now at altitude in Livigno, Italy, and will return at the Tour of Wallonie (July 23-27), the Clásica San Sebastián (July 30), Tour de l’Ain (August 9-11) and the Vuelta a España (August 19 to September 11)

After that, he will defend his world title in Australia in September.