Mark Cavendish will not race at the Tour de France for a second consecutive year after being left out of Bahrain-McLaren’s eight-man squad.
The 35-year-old began the year hoping to get a chance to add to his 30 career Tour stage wins, a total which leaves him only four short of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record, but has not had the form to earn selection.
Team principal Rod Ellingworth has instead chosen a team focused heavily on the yellow jersey ambitions of Spaniard Mikel Landa, built around climbers including Wout Poels and Damiano Caruso.
Last year, Cavendish was controversially left out of Team Dimension Data’s squad after fighting his way back from the effects of the Epstein-Barr virus.
That decision, which came over the objections of the team’s own performance director Rolf Aldag, caused a breakdown in Cavendish’s relationship with the team – but 12 months on the situation is very different.
The loss of the first half of the season during the pandemic left Cavendish with little time to get the necessary racing needed to get back to his best and there is an acceptance he is not ready to show his best form in France.
The Manxman is instead working on a different race schedule in which all options – including the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana – are on the table.
The riders who are selected for the Tour will focus on taking the fight to Team Ineos in the battle for yellow, with Ellingworth, Landa and Poels all former employees of Sir Dave Brailsford.
Ellingworth said: “The Tour de France is the biggest moment of the year in cycling and I’m proud to say the entire team has done a great job getting us Tour ready. We are where we need to be, and I’m optimistic about what we can achieve.
“This year’s parcours is very well suited to Mikel, and his form is strong.
“The group we have chosen to support him represents our riders who are most suited to the parcours and Tour-ready. The past few months have been challenging for all riders to be race fit, and it’s a credit to all of our guys that we had such a strong line-up to choose from.”
Landa has finished in the top 10 at the Tour three times in his career, his best finish fourth place in 2017 when riding in support of Chris Froome, but is hoping to challenge for yellow when afforded leadership himself.
“I’ll be starting this Tour in very good shape, and am greatly motivated by how I’m feeling, as well as the strength and quality of my team-mates who’ll be supporting me on the road,” he said.
“Together, as a team, we can achieve a lot.”
The Tour, rescheduled due to the pandemic, begins next Saturday in Nice.