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VN news ticker: Patrick Lefevere rails at Sam Bennett, Fabio Aru won’t race Tour de France

Here's what's making headlines on Tuesday, June 22.

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Patrick Lefevere rails at Sam Bennett for Tour de France absence

Deceuninck-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere is always one to speak his mind, and he unloaded on Sam Bennett after the Irish sprinter pulled out of the Tour de France.

Bennett said a nagging knee injury means he’s not in top shape, but Lefevere said Bennett’s woes may be as much psychological as physical.

Also read: Cavendish in, Bennett out

“I cannot prove that he does not have knee pain, but I am starting to think more and more that it is more fear of failure than just pain,” Lefevere told Sporza. “I’m starting to think it’s more performance anxiety than just pain.”

Bennett’s absence opens the door for Mark Cavendish to return to the Tour for the first time since 2018, but leaves Lefevere without the defending green jersey winner in the otherwise strong lineup.

“When Bennett called that he was injured and that he needed care and rest, we already felt the mood that he was not going to be ready for the Tour,” Lefevere said. “Three days before the Tour of Belgium, he bumped his knee against his handlebars. He didn’t tell us anything about that. When he arrived, we sent him home again. Then it was a yes-no game: to train or not to train?

“[Sunday] he had to come to Belgium, but then there were problems with his plane again. Then you start to think strange things,” said Lefevere, who said it had nothing to do with Bennett’s exit from the team at the end of the season. “If that’s the case, it would say a lot about him, after all I’ve done for him. If you treat me like that, it says a lot. I’m not ruling it out.”

Lefevere also downplayed expectations for Cavendish, who hasn’t won a Tour stage since 2016.

“As far as Mark Cavendish is concerned, the expectations are not too high,” Lefevere said. “He is not 30 years old anymore. It is to his credit that he is nervous as if he has to ride his first race in the juniors. If he does not win, everyone will think that is normal. If he does win, everyone will put him on a throne.”

Fabio Aru won’t race Tour de France

Fabio Aru will not start the Tour de France this weekend for Qhubeka Assos due to medical problems, team officials confirmed.

“I know what it takes to compete at the Tour and I felt that with the physical problems that I had over the weekend, my body is just not where it needs to be for me to be at my very best for the Grand Départ,” Aru said. “After discussing the situation with the team I decided that it in was our best interests to withdraw from the selection.”

Aru, 30, continues to struggle with health issues, and pulled out of last year’s Tour.

The Italian winner of the 2015 Vuelta a España will be replaced by Carlos Barbero, who will make his Tour debut.

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