Sam Bennett and Patrick Lefevere respond to Irishman's absence from Tour de France line-up

The Deceuninck - Quick-Step boss has accused his sprinter of more 'fear of failure than just pain'

Sam Bennett
(Image credit: Getty)

Sam Bennett and his Deceuninck - Quick-Step boss, Patrick Lefevere, have responded to the announcement the sprinter will miss this year's Tour de France.

Last year's green jersey winner has been battling injury for the past few weeks and was believed to be recovering in time for the Grand Départ in Brittany on June 26.

Less than a week beforehand, however, Mark Cavendish was announced as the Belgian team's sprinter for the race, his first Tour since 2018, Bennett missing from the eight-man squad.

Bennett says his absence is down to a "really minor" knee injury that wouldn't heal in time for the race, and that he'll now refocus on other ambitions for the rest of the season, believed to be his last with Deceuninck - Quick-Step.

>>> Mark Cavendish confirmed for Tour de France 2021

"Sometimes life throws you a curveball. A couple of weeks ago in training, I had a really minor injury that I simply couldn't heal in time to be at my best for this year's Tour de France. The race, and the Wolfpack, deserve me at my very best," Bennett said.

"Myself and the team believed I would be ready in time but it became clear in the last few days that I wouldn't be at the level I always strive to be at to win bunch sprints in the biggest race in the world.

"This season has so much more to offer me so I'm going to keep fighting and, most importantly, race without any injury risk, in the comings weeks and months. The very best of luck to the Wolfpack, stay safe on the unforgiving roads of France."

Team boss Patrick Lefevere has been at his scandalous best in the aftermath, saying he can't prove Bennett isn't suffering from knee pain, and it seems the relationship is in danger of turning sour, with the Irishman set to leave at the end of the season.

"When Bennett called that he was injured and that he needed care and rest, we already felt the mood that he was not going to be ready for the Tour," Lefevere told Sporza.

"Three days before the Tour of Belgium, he bumped his knee against his handlebars. He didn't tell us anything about that. When he arrived, we sent him home again. Then it was a yes-no game: to train or not to train?

"I cannot prove that he does not have knee pain, but I am starting to think more and more that it is more fear of failure than just pain. Yesterday he had to come to Belgium, but then there were problems with his plane again. Then you start strange things to think. He'll have to come anyway. I'm not going to let this pass."

When asked directly whether the Irishman's impending departure from his team may have played a part, Lefevere says he's not discounting that possibility.

"If that's the case, it would say a lot about him, after all I've done for him. I've even paid advances of fines to pay his fine at Bora. If you treat me like that, it says a lot. I'm not ruling it out."

As for Cavendish, Lefevere sees taking the Manxman as a choice that can only have positives.

"As far as Mark Cavendish is concerned, the expectations are not too high. He is not 30 years old anymore. It is to his credit that he is nervous as if he has to ride his first race in the juniors. If he does not win, everyone will think that is normal If he does win, everyone will put him on a throne," he said.

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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.