Mark Cavendish‘s Dimension Data team say that he could pay the price as a top sprinter if he pushes himself through classics like Ghent-Wevelgem. He will not race the Belgian classic on Sunday for the second consecutive year.
Scott Thwaites, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar led the race in the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, and on the nearby roads to Wevelgem on Sunday. They stepped off the team’s temporary grey caravan this morning while Rolf Aldag, the team’s performance manager, went over last-minute details with a helper.
“You have to think about his needs to be the fastest man on the planet, which he wants to be and needs to be,” Aldag said after looking over some papers in the team car.
“The classics don’t make you faster. You’ve seen André Greipel doing them, he’s good at them, but you pay the price. It takes a lot of energy out of your body.”
Cavendish raced Ghent-Wevelgem six times over the years with teams HTC, Sky and Quick Step. He remains one of cycling’s top sprinters, but Ghent-Wevelgem changes.
This year, the race includes gravel dirt sectors, or Plugstreets around the Ploegsteert Memorial. It follows several years of changes that renders the race less sprinter friendly compared to the days when Mario Cipollini won.
World champion Peter Sagan won in 2016.
“Race organisers should think about it. Maybe it’s a category in cycling that will die over time, those sprinters classics. Could you imagine Cipollini winning the edition they’ll have this year? No way,” Aldag added.
“You just have to realise it and decide. They changed the characteristics of the race, they keep on changing it, and now it’s a mix of Strade Bianche. You can’t just say, ‘Sprinters won in the past, so why not race?’ Ghent-Wevelgem is a different type of race now. It’s still fun, but it doesn’t make sense.”
Cavendish, who last raced Milan-San Remo on Saturday, should come back to race in the Scheldeprijs next Wednesday, April 6. The team is planning his schedule over the coming days.
The goal, said Aldag, is the Tour de France in July and being the “fastest man on the planet.” If Cavendish collects five more wins, he will surpass Eddy Merckx‘s 34 victories with the most stage wins in history.
“We always have flexibility with Cav. His programme is never fixed over these years,” Aldag added.
“The thing you wouldn’t expect is that every time I call him up to ask him if he can fill in for someone, he always says yes. If I called him today, said that we needed him in Harelbeke, he’d jump in the car and be here.”