Cavendish's Tour de France omission creates internal rift

FILE - In this July 4, 2017 file photo, Britain's Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after he crashed during the sprint of the fourth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 207.5 kilometers (129 miles) with start in Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg, and finish in Vittel, France. Mark Cavendish, the 34-year-old British sprinter with 30 stage victories at the Tour, second only behind Merckx, wasn't included on the roster of eight riders for this year's edition announced Tuesday by his team, Dimension Data. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

BRUSSELS — Mark Cavendish's omission from the Tour de France is creating a rift within his Dimension Data team.

Team principal Doug Ryder insisted on Saturday at the start of the Tour's opening stage he made the right decision by leaving the 34-year-old sprinter at home, a move that left head of performance Rolf Aldag puzzled.

Cavendish, who has 30 stage wins on the Tour, has not produced a single win this season while struggling to recover from the Epstein-Barr virus, but hoped he could get back in contention at cycling's marquee race.

"Mark is a legend of the race. It is sad for the race that he's not here," Ryder said in Brussels. "We took that into account and spoke to the organizers. We selected a team based on the route and how hard it is this year. There was a whole team involved, it was a team decision."

But Aldag spoke a different tune.

"It's no secret I wanted him here," Aldag said. "I think it would suit our strategy but ultimately it's a team owner decision. It's within my remit to select the team which I did, and Mark was included, and the team owner has the right to overrule me, which he did."

Cavendish's wife, Peta Cavendish, joined the debate, saying on Twitter there was a "fair amount of fiction" in Ryder's statement.

Cavendish hasn't missed a Tour since his first in 2007. But he also hasn't won a stage since he took four in 2016 to overhaul Bernard Hinault on the list of stage winners. Hinault won 28. The record is held by Eddy Merckx, with 34.

Cavendish, the dominant sprinter of his generation, has been trying to regain his speed since he was diagnosed in 2017 with the virus, which can cause fatigue and inflammation.

Without Cavendish, the headliners for Dimension Data at the Tour will be Roman Kreuziger, who has four top-10 finishes at the Tour, and Edvald Boasson Hagen, who has three stage wins.

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More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance

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