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BRUSSELS (VN) — Dimension Data’s performance director Rolf Aldag wanted Mark Cavendish to race the Tour de France, but the team owner overruled him and excluded the star British sprinter from the eight-man roster.
The race began today in Brussels without Cavendish, who counts 30 stages wins in his career. However, questions circulated regarding his form since he had been suffering with Epstein–Barr Virus.
Aldag believed his rider was ready after a full 2019 early season, though, which ended with an altitude camp and the British Championships.
“There’s no secret about it. I wanted to have him here and I think he would have suited our strategy but ultimately it was a team owner decision,” Aldag said.
“It’s within my responsibility to select a team and I called eight names, and Mark was included.
“The team owner has the right to overrule me, which he did.”
Team boss Doug Ryder named the eight-man team Monday sans Cavendish but with riders including American Ben King. He said it “was a team decision” even if they disagreed.
“Mark is a legend of this race and it’s sad for this race that he’s not here,” Ryder explained. “We took that into account for sure and we spoke to the organizers about that as well.
“We’ve selected a team based on the route and how hard it is this year. Multiple people made that decision. It was a team decision and our whole high performance team was involved in the conversations with Mark.”
This year, the route includes more mountains than in the last editions. Last year, suffering from the virus, Cavendish abandoned mid-way through. It was his second year without winning stages.
He has raced every year since his debut in 2007, pulling in six stage wins in 2009. His goal had been to equal and pass the record of 34 stage wins by Eddy Merckx.
In 2016, he won four stages and Aldag believes he showed form better than three years ago.
“I have physically seen him, I’m one of very few who have physically seen him and been following him for quite a while,” Aldag explained.
“I was there [at the Tour of Slovenia last month] and I’ve seen a Mark Cavendish who is 300 percent better than in 2016 when he dropped out on stage two [of Slovenia] and fell asleep in my car after 20 kilometers because he was so tired.
“That’s why I thought he was definitely in a good path and in a good way so it was worth taking him.
“I’m not just talking about [doing it for] the media and to give him another Tour de France. I thought about the sprints and that he’s a good choice.”
The team appears to be uncertain how to deal with the decision. In Friday’s team press conference, the team sent four of its stars but neither Aldag nor Ryder to answer the questions that they must have known would arrive from journalists.
Instead, journalists this morning at the start of stage one had their opportunity. Ryder first arrived, saying “the best decision was made,” and then Aldag, who explained differently.
Cavendish is under contract only through 2019, but it is unclear if he will remain with Team Dimension Data. Ryder admitted, “Mark was disappointed” with the selection.