'I took a week or so off the bike to get my head straight': Mark Cavendish ready for return to racing in Poland

The Manxman will come up against competition from Fernando Gaviria and Pascal Ackermann for stage victories

Mark Cavendish at the Tour of California 2019 (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Speaking on the eve of his return to racing at the Tour of Poland, Mark Cavendish has revealed he took some time off the bike to deal with his omission from Dimension Data's Tour de France squad.

After beating the Epstein Barr virus that has plagued his career for the past two years, the sprinter was looking toward competing at full strength and adding to his 30 Tour stage wins.

>>> Mark Cavendish and Alice Barnes headline British squads for European Championships

In what is now a well-document disagreement within the South African team's management, performance manager Rolf Aldag said general manager Doug Ryder overruled him on the decision over Cavendish’s inclusion.

Following the decision, Cavendish gave an update on the last few weeks from Tour omission to lining up as team leader for the WorldTour race.

"After the shock of missing out on going to the Tour, I took a week or so off the bike to get my head straight, think clearly and plan what would be my first ever second half of the season without a Grand Tour in my legs. It’s a bit of an unknown," Cavendish said.

"So I rode low-key for a couple of days to get back into the swing at Adriatica Ionica Race last week. Some long gravel sections made it a pretty fun way to get back racing but the inevitable puncture lottery gave me and a good chunk of the peloton bad odds that time."

Cavendish finished nine minutes down on stage one Adriatica Ionica winner Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and didn't line up for the start of stage two.

He will now roll out of Krakow for stage one of the Tour of Poland as team leader, with team-mates Bernie Eisel and Jaco Venter supporting him as he targets the first three flat stages, his main competition coming in the form of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Enrico Gasparotto, Stefan De Bod, Gino Mader and Ben O’Connor fill the other spots in Dimension Data’s seven-man squad.

Cavendish continued: "Tomorrow, back to racing in my first ever Tour of Poland. I’m actually really excited to see what I’ve missed my whole career at a race my teammates always talk so highly of!"

Cavendish will also headline the British squad at the European Championships in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, with the men's road race taking place the day after the conclusion of the Tour of Poland.

The Manxman will headline a talented squad that includes Luke Rowe (Ineos), Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), Adam Blythe (Lotto-Soudal), Chris Lawless (Ineos), Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic), Dan McLay (EF Education First) and Gabriel Cullaigh (Wiggins Le Col).

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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.