Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is apparently not thinking about racing the Tour de France to surpass Eddy Merckx's stage win record, but just to win one more time.
Erik Zabel, winner of six green jerseys at the Tour, worked for team HTC-Highroad during the years when Mark Cavendish blossomed. Ahead of this year's race, he spoke with Cavendish about his future and Merckx's record.
"I spoke with him at the Tour of California, he said that he's absolutely not thinking about five more stage wins to break Eddy's record, but he's more or less focused on the next one, to win just one more and that is the most important thing," Zabel told Cycling Weekly.
"What I learned in life is that bad things also have a good side, and hopefully this rest now, the possibility to completely recover, maybe that gives Cav a chance to come back next year stronger and better than he was now.
"I'm a hopeless naive and I'm hoping so much that Cav will not give up."
With team HTC-Highroad, Cavendish made his Tour debut and won his first of what would be 30 Tour stage victories. Eddy Merckx holds the all-time record of 34.
Cavendish had been suffering from Epstein-Barr virus, which he discovered after pulling out of the 2018 Tour de France. However, he and others in Team Dimension Data believe he should have raced in the 2019 edition, and Zabel agrees.
"Yes, it's sad for Cavendish. It's also sad for the cycling fans and his supporters. I guess even if he is not finishing in Paris he's still one of the most famous and popular riders," Zabel continued.
"What I know from him is that he would be the last one who would go to the Tour if he wasn't ready. He's already won 30 stages and that means that he has some potential! If he didn't believe he couldn't make it here then he would be the first one to say send someone else."
The Dimension Data Performance Manager Rolf Aldag also wanted to include Cavendish in Dimension Data's eight-man roster, but he said that he was overruled by team boss Doug Ryder.
"You know it's always difficult to speak about sporting decisions when you are not in the team and not evolved in the decision, so then it's better for all the sports directors from all the others teams that they just shut up," Zabel said of his opinion.
"At the moment, [I'd bring him, but] not as a main sprinter because there are so many young talented riders. For example, we saw with Daniele Bennati and with the other sprinters, even André Greipel, that those guys can be so helpful to guide the young riders
"Of course, it's always the decision of the riders if Mark or André want to do that job and be a road captain. For sure they would not be successful like before but if they want to go this way then every team would be super happy to have a rider like Greipel or Cavendish as a road captain."
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