Mark Cavendish’s participation in the 2021 Tour de France is now in serious doubt because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
That is the view of the Bahrain-McLaren team principal Rod Ellingworth.
“He doesn’t have automatic selection for the Tour and he doesn’t want it,” Ellingworth said.
“He doesn’t want it just handed to him. But we made an agreement that if he was winning races that would be enough to go to the Tour. Unfortunately that changes and with so little racing beforehand it cuts his chances of being able to prove he’s back at a decent level.”
Cavendish is hoping to continue to star for Bahrain-McLaren and add to his tally of 30 Tour victories.
Strategic planning from the team hierarchy, however, could see the team prioritise the Manxman’s participation in other events.
Cycling’s calendar has been thrown into chaos by the global pandemic. It now looks likely that the Tour de France will take place this year, but will not start until August 29.
Bahrain-McLaren hunt yellow rather than green
Cavendish, now 35, has been troubled by illness and injury over the last two seasons. He has not had a chance to prove that he is back to his imperious best as yet, with racing suspended since mid-March.
Bahrain-McLaren are now reported as targeting the yellow jersey during the Tour de France as a result of decisions made at their strategic planning meetings.
Ellingworth has been keen to stress that that decision does not entirely rule out Cavendish’s participation in France.
But Cavendish is a sprinter whose interest lies in stage wins and the Green Jersey, which means that he may be encouraged to miss the Tour this year and prioritise other events.
The UCI now has a revised calendar of events in place, but planning is very difficult for team hierarchies.
This is because none of the events are actually guaranteed to take place due to the ever-changing circumstances surrounding the global pandemic.
Packed cycling calendar
The new UCI calendar packs over 100 days of racing into just three months, so many teams, including Bahrain-McLaren, are going to have their resources tested to the limit, and possibly beyond.
Ellingworth has accepted that his team may have to pay a fine as they need 30 riders to cover all their commitments, but only have 29 on the team roster.
The number of riders is not the only issue for the teams, though, with support staff also reduced if the cramped calendar goes ahead as planned.
“But also, if we’re limited with the number of staff we can have at a race, the riders get less care and attention which in a Grand Tour is a health issue potentially,” Ellingworth explained.
The team has also faced financial issues and has had to make wage deferrals as a result of the pandemic.
Despite that situation, the team has been linked with a move to sign Chris Froome for next season.