Mark Cavendish will begin the five day Adriatica Ionica race on Thursday, marking his return to racing following the surprise Tour de France omission which the Manx sprinter said left him “heartbroken.“
The 34-year-old has been listed as part of a seven rider Team Dimension Data line-up for the UCI 2.1 ranked race in Italy, which is now embarking on its second edition.
The 2018 overall went to Columbian Iván Sosa, now riding for Team Ineos. However, it’s Elia Viviani (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) who has the most wins – at three.
Cavendish will have the benefit of lead-out riders Mark Renshaw and Bernie Eisel, whilst the South African registered squad is also taking fellow sprinter Ryan Gibbons, plus climber Louis Meintjes alongside Danilo Wyss and Rasmus Tiller.
The 30-time Tour de France stage winner has been off the pace for two seasons, after struggling with Epstein Barr Virus. However, he said he was in the “perfect place” to ride his way to Paris in top form, after spending time training at altitude.
Commenting on the team’s decision to leave him behind, Cavendish said: “As I have done for my entire career, I targeted a specific time to be at peak form. This has pretty much always resulted in me hitting my goals or coming damn close… After a long, difficult fight back from trying to compete for the whole of last season with Epstein Barr Virus and after following a specific training program to peak in July, I feel I was in the perfect place.
“I’m absolutely heart-broken by the decision that means I won’t be [at the Tour de France] this year.”
Reports state that the final call came from team principal Doug Ryder, whilst head of performance, Rolf Aldag, wanted Cavendish to race the Tour.
The choice created waves within the team, with Aldag vocally unhappy about the outcome.
“There’s no secret about it. I wanted to have him here and I think he would have suited our strategy but ultimately it was a team owner decision,” he said after the first say of racing.
Cavendish’s performance in Italy will be an opportunity for him to demonstrate his current form.
Sport director Bingen Fernandez commented on the line up, saying: “We will have some fresh and motivated riders at the Adriatica Ionica Race. The majority of the peloton will be in the same position though, as there has not been much else racing going in July, other than the Tour de France.
“The parcour here has something for everyone, from flat sprints, a punchy finish and gravel roads to the big climb up to Lago di Misurina. This will make for an exciting race and we will look to be one of the main protagonists of the race each stage.”