Patrick Lefevere says Deceuninck - Quick-Step currently has "no real plan B" for a sprinting option if Sam Bennett can't make it to the upcoming Tour de France.
The Irishman and 2020 green jersey winner is currently struggling with injury, an inflammation to a tendon in his knee, Mark Cavendish drafted in at the last minute to replace him at the Belgium Tour where the Manxman won the final stage against top-level competition to give Tour selectors food for thought.
A decision on Bennett's condition will be made this week, but Mark Cavendish has remained coy on the chance he will be on the start line in Brest.
"I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s all talk," Cavendish said after his win in Belgium, back to his bullish best on the bike and in the mixed zone. "The reason the whole Tour de France thing came up - I didn’t mention it and Patrick didn’t mention it - I won in the Tour of Turkey and all of a sudden the media started talking about it."
In his weekly column in Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab), crucially written before Cavendish's win, Lefevere said he'd already spoken to Cavendish about the Tour, and that the Manxman told him he wouldn't ride a Grand Tour on his current salary.
"I understand his point of view. Mark joined our team at 35 years of age and at the last minute. At that time, the Tour was out of the question. He signed a minimum contract because we had minimal expectations," Lefevere explained, before setting out his stall for how he thinks the situation could be rectified: “Extend Cavendish for the Tour, on better conditions. With the level he has now, he wants to continue for at least another year.
"Mark still has his speed. But I understand that he is not waiting for a Tour de France. For him, that means riding under pressure, under the magnifying glass of the media. If he even comes close to a win, everyone starts talking about Eddy Merckx's record. He has won 34 stages in the Tour, Mark is now at thirty.”
It would make sense for both parties to renew after Cavendish's rejuvenation in 2021, but the type and size of deal will surely rest on whether Bennett can make it to the Tour.
“There is no real plan B as a sprinter. The problem is that [Bennett] suffers from inflammation of the patella tendon and these are persistent injuries. We've been through it before with Tom Boonen, Zdenek Štybar and Andrea Bagioli, all of whom even had surgery," Lefevere said. "Will Sam make the Tour? At the moment we don't know. He has to rest until at least Monday."
Cavendish also had words for the media about the Merckx record: "The thing with Eddy Merckx record? I never started that, it was the media that started that, and all of a sudden, it’s like, I’m going for it.
"It’s the same with this. It’s you guys [the media] that started whether or not I should go to the Tour de France."
One thing, at least, is for sure: Cav is back.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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