Mark Cavendish steps in for injured Sam Bennett at Baloise Belgium Tour

The Manxman comes into the team after Bennett injured his knee in training

Mark Cavendish and Shane Archbold celebrating
(Image credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish has stepped in for Sam Bennett at the Baloise Belgium Tour after the Irishman suffered a knee injury in a small incident when out training.

Cavendish (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) has looked close to his old self this season taking 12 top four results including four wins at the Tour of Turkey, however, he has not yet won against some of the biggest names in sprinting.

The British sprinter, however, now does have that chance after team leader Sam Bennett suffered an injury to his right knee with the Belgian team choosing to not risk it, advising the reigning Tour de France green jersey champion to rest before trying to retain that title. 

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Cavendish will be coming up against the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) who returns to racing after taking two stage wins at the Giro d'Italia, with the Australian sprinter using the Belgium Tour as a leg tester ahead of the Tour.

Other big names in the sprint line-up are Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos), Cees Bol (DSM), Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen (both Alpecin-Fenix), among others.

This will be another big opportunity for Cavendish who has publicly said he wants to look at potential short or long-term contract negotiations in the coming weeks with Deceuninck - Quick-Step boss, Patrick Lefevere.

In a press release, the team said: "Following a small incident in training last weekend, Sam Bennett has incurred a problem with his right knee. After consultation with our medical team, it has been decided that he will not start this week’s Belgium Tour and will instead take some rest ahead of the Tour de France.

"Sam will be replaced on Deceuninck - Quick-Step’s roster for the five-day race by Mark Cavendish."

Bennett, who hasn't raced since the Volta ao Algarve in early May, will likely be disappointed with the setback so close to the Tour de France, especially with the toughest battle for the green jersey in years set to take place at the Tour. The likes of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and many more talented punchy sprinters will all be looking to steal his crown at the 2021 edition.

The Deceuninck - Quick-Step squad for the Belgium Tour is a strong one with 2019 overall winner Remco Evenepoel making his return to stage racing along with Davide Ballerini, Yves Lampaert, Zdeněk Štybar, Iljo Keisse and top lead-out man Michael Mørkøv all in the team to support Cavendish.

The Baloise Belgium Tour starts today (May 9) with a 175.3km stage from Beveren to Maarkedel where riders will tackle two and a half laps of a tricky hilly course to the finish.

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.