Team Dimension Data’s management disagreed on Mark Cavendish participating in the 2019 Tour de France, which eventually began on Saturday in Brussels without the star British sprinter.
Cavendish’s name was on the roster selected by the performance manager, Rolf Aldag, but the general manager, Doug Ryder “overruled” him in naming the final eight.
“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,” said Aldag at the start of stage one.
“It’s within my responsibility to select a team and I called eight names and Mark was included.
“The team owner has the right to overrule me, which he did.”
Aldag has guided Cavendish since his T-Mobile/Highroad days, heping him to 30 Tour de France stage wins. But Ryder went against Aldag’s call and kept ‘Cav’ out of the Tour for the first time since his debut in 2007.
Ryder indicated that everyone was on the same page in excluding Cavendish for a roster that also includes Brit Steve Cummings and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.
“Mark is legend of this race and it’s sad for this race that he’s not here,” Ryder said. “We took that into account for sure and we spoke to the organisers about that as well.
“We’ve selected a team based on the route and how hard it is this year. Multiple people made that decision. It was a team decision and our whole high performance team was involved in the conversations with Mark.”
Cavendish has been suffering since last year. After he dropped out of the Tour mid-way, he announced that he discovered he had been dealing with the Epstein–Barr virus.
He raced through 2019 and polished off his preparations with an altitude camp and the British National Championships road race. But then the team, in the final week, made the decision to leave him at home.
Ryder and Aldag skipped the team pre-Tour press conference on Friday and left a few of their riders, including Boasson Hagen, to answer questions about Cavendish’s exclusion.
On Saturday at the Grand Départ, they spoke about the decision: first Ryder, who said “the best decision was made,” and then Aldag, who contradicted his boss.
“I have physically seen him, I’m one of very few who have physically seen him and been following him for quite a while,” added Aldag.
“I was there [at the Tour of Slovenia last month] and I’ve seen a Mark Cavendish who is 300 per cent better than in 2016 when he dropped out on stage two [of Slovenia] and fell asleep in my car after 20 kilometres because he was so tired.”
Cavendish went on to win four stages, including stage one for a day in the race leader’s yellow jersey, in 2016.
“That’s why I thought he was definitely in a good path and in a good way so it was worth taking him,” said Aldag.
“I’m not just talking about [doing it for] the media and to give him another Tour de France. I thought about the sprints and that he’s a good choice.”
Cavendish’s contract with Dimension Data ends this season. After the decision, it is uncertain if Cavendish will want to remain in Ryder’s team. Ryder, however, underlined that he believes everyone was on the same page.
“It was team decision,” said Ryder. “There were differences of opinion but it was team decision.”