Mark Cavendish has been left devastated after missing out on selection for the Tour de France.
The 30-time Tour stage winner will not be on the start-line of the Tour for the first time since making his debut in 2007 after being left out of Team Dimension Data’s eight-strong team.
PA understands Dimension Data head of performance Rolf Aldag wanted to select Cavendish for the Tour, but was overruled by team principal Doug Ryder, who instead made the final call on a squad which includes Britain’s Steve Cummings, 38, and Dane Lars Bak, 39.
The decision has come as a shock for the 34-year-old Cavendish, who has been plagued by the Epstein-Barr virus in recent years but believed he had done all that was asked of him to prove his fitness and felt in himself that he was in the sort of form which saw him win four stages in 2016.
Cavendish raced in the British national road race on Sunday, finishing 22nd, after completing an altitude camp in Austria last week which was a specific part of his preparation for the Tour.
Though Cavendish has been short of results on the road this season – his best so far a third place on stage three at the Tour of Turkey in April – the Manxman has deliberately limited his racing to focus on training blocks designed to bring him to peak form for the Tour.
The results of that were seemingly enough to persuade Aldag that Cavendish should head to Brussels this weekend, but not Ryder.
While Ryder has set a goal of transitioning the South African-registered team towards one capable of challenging in the general classification in the near future, the team’s best GC rider Louis Meintjes is also absent following a fractured wrist suffered in the Tour of California in May.
The team’s squad announcement did not mention Cavendish, but a later statement said: “Selection for our Tour squad was a highly-competitive process and one in which a panel weighed up the options provided to us not only by Mark but indeed all of our riders.
“As you’d expect among a selection panel, there were a number of different preferences of the final squad make up with our team principal, Doug Ryder, making the final decision on it.
“This selection is one the team believes will be best suited to meet the goals set out for the race.”
Cavendish joined Dimension Data in 2016 when the team stepped up to the WorldTour level, immediately injecting star power into the line-up of a team which rides to promote the Qhubeka charity, which distributes bikes in South Africa to improve access to work and education.
He won four stages in his first Tour de France for the team, but in 2017 his race ended early when he was involved in a crash with Peter Sagan on stage four.
In 2018, Cavendish could not manage a finish higher than eighth place, and subsequently learned he was still suffering from the Epstein-Barr virus, causing him to end his season in August to focus on making a recovery.
In October last year Cavendish signed a new one-year deal with the team which included a leadership role.
Cavendish’s 30 Tour stage wins leaves him four short of the all-time record held by Eddy Merckx.
Though he misses out, Cummings will be lining up in the Tour for the sixth time.
The breakaway specialist won the team’s first ever Tour stage, when they were still known as MTN-Qhubeka, in 2015 on Mandela Day, and claimed another 12 months later on stage seven of the 2016 Tour.