Mark Cavendish has not been selected by Dimension Data for the Tour de France which begins in Brussels on Saturday.
In what is a massive blow to the British rider’s chances of one day surpassing Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage record of 34 wins, Cavendish – who has been on 30 wins since 2016 – was dropped at the 11th hour. He had been expecting to travel to Belgium.
There is, however, a place for 38 year-old Briton Steve Cummings, a two-time Tour stage winner.
Cavendish, 34, had two injury-ravaged seasons on the trot heading into 2019, struggling with Epstein Barr virus. And he has not won a race of any description since stage 3 of the Dubai Tour in February last year.
But he had spoken in interviews of feeling fit again, insisting his training numbers were good even if the results were not yet coming.
And he was certainly expecting to get a call-up, spending the last few weeks at altitude in Austria before riding in the national road race championships in Norfolk on Sunday where again he said he felt good.
It is unclear what changed but relations with his team principal Doug Ryder have been strained for a while.
Cavendish was not even mentioned in the press release from Dimension Data announcing their team, which could hint at friction behind the scenes.
The 2011 world champion will undoubtedly be devastated by the news. Cavendish will be 35 by the time the next Tour de France comes around and time is not on his side if he wants to catch Merckx.
Dimension Data have instead gone with a team based around hunting for wins on hilly stages. That is Cummings’ forte, although the veteran rider admitted he was surprised by his inclusion.
“I was pleasantly surprised about the Tour selection, I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the team again for the opportunity to go to the Tour and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I think it’s a pretty open Tour, there are a lot of chances to be aggressive and I think it suits the team that we have very well and I hope that we can have a great July and every one can be proud of us.”
There is a Tour debut for Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo who won the final stage at the recent Tour of Slovenia. Eddy Boassen Hagen, a three-time stage winner, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Michael Valgren, Roman Kreuziger, Ben King and Lars Bak complete the team.