Mark Cavendish’s chance of breaking Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record in July appear all but over after being named in Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl’s eight-man team for the Giro d’Italia, which gets under way in Budapest on Friday.
It had long been expected that Cavendish would head to the opening grand tour of the season, while team-mate Fabio Jakobsen would be Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl’s first-choice sprinter for the Tour. Monday’s announcement that named Cavendish in the eight-man team suggests it is extremely unlikely that, barring an injury to Jakobsen, the Manxman will be returning to this summer’s Tour.
After being handed a lifeline in December 2020, Cavendish returned to Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick Step before making the selection for last year’s Tour in place of injured Irish sprinter Sam Bennett. In what was one of the most remarkable comeback stories of 2021, the 36-year-old rolled back the years to win four stages and the green jersey while equalling Merckx’s record of 34 Tour stage wins.
With just months left on his contract and age no longer on his side, Cavendish may now have to settle for ending his career level with the great Merckx in terms of stage wins. However, given Merckx’s wins came across all terrain, Cavendish can rightfully be regarded as the Tour’s greatest sprinter.
Cavendish will play a leading role at the Giro as Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl’s protected ‘man for the flat’ alongside lead-out man Michael Morkov, fellow sprinter Davide Ballerini, James Knox, Mauro Schmid, Pieter Serry, Bert Van Lerberghe, and Mauri Vansevenant.
“We go to the Giro d’Italia with a lot of motivation. We have a good team at the start, with Mark as our man for the flat,” Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl sports director Davide Bramati said in a statement.
“He has won a lot of stages at the Giro, and he can rely on many strong riders to support and guide him in the hectic bunch sprints. For the other stages, we’ll just take it one day at a time, fight for every opportunity and see what we can do.”
Meanwhile, Simon Yates has been named as the leader of the BikeExchange-Jayco team. The Briton who led the race for 13 days in 2018 before his dramatic collapse on stage 19 when Chris Froome memorably took hold of the maglia rosa, arrives in fine form having won two stages at last week’s Vuelta Asturias and has said he is aiming for a podium finish.
“From an actual racing point of view, you always aim for the podium. We aim for the podium and once we get closer to the last week, we assess if we are in a position to win it or not, then we go at it from there.”