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SBS journalist and Tour de France correspondent Sophie Smith examines the omission of Mark Cavendish from Dimension Data's Tour de France squad for 2019.
Sophie Smith

3 Jul 2019 - 7:58 AM  UPDATED 3 Jul 2019 - 8:16 AM

Dimension Data has made the right call in not selecting Mark Cavendish for the 2019 Tour de France.  

Selecting the 30-time stage winner this year would have made a mockery of the squad, which named its team yesterday that did not include his chief lieutenants Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel either.  

Granted Cavendish is a living legend of the sport whose name became synonymous with the Tour following a breakthrough 2008 campaign.  

However, opting for him solely based on his prestige, or as some argued on social media yesterday how he felt at a recent altitude training camp, is ignorant and misguided. 

The blue riband Tour demands more than that, the riders who have runs on the board to earn selection for a place deserve more than that, as does Cavendish.  

“Cav – he’s a born star. He’s not a born domestique,” Brian Holm once said.  

Does his omission from the race for the first time since debut in 2007 signal the end of an era? Yes. Is it a surprise? No.  

This writing has been on the wall in earnest since the Tour last year and most definitely since Dimension Data’s pointed recruitment for the 2019 season.  

The team last year secured the signings of the entire 2018 Amstel Gold Race podium, suggesting Cavendish, who the squad was able to join the WorldTour with, was no longer its main direction. His contract extension with the team in fact was announced late, in October, amidst rumours of a rift with general manager Doug Ryder and whispers of a potential move to Bahrain-Merida.  

Then there is the cold, hard results - or lack thereof - on paper.  

Cavendish has marked a meagre two stage wins in two years. 

He abandoned both Paris-Nice and the Amgen Tour of California this season.  

During a pre-race press conference in California, he was buoyed by returned blood work following an Epstein-Barr virus diagnosis last year.  

“My last blood test a couple of weeks ago was the first time for two years it’s been under a threshold of sick. It’s a massive relief,” Cavendish said in May.



The 34-year-old didn’t have it in the proceeding bunch sprints, however, and resigned to work for Reinardt Janse van Rensburg before abandoning on the final stage. 

At the Tour of Slovenia, a lesser known Tour tune-up race, Cavendish was apparently out the back while teammate Giacomo Nizzolo was taking line honours.  

Van Rensburg and Nizzolo were both selected for the Tour.  

Since 2008, Cavendish’s place at the Tour has always been assumed based on his prolific history there. Not many would think to question that.  

Journalism 101: Don’t Assume.  

Cavendish’s illness coupled with his performance this year and last – ill and absent-mindedly crash-marred -- begged the question. Is his start at Tour this year a given 

It was what senior staff at Dimension Data didn’t say, more so than what they did, which was telling.  

Head of performance Rolf Aldag, who worked with Cavendish during his thriving days at Highroad, pulled back and laughed when asked in California.  

"I don’t think we discuss the Tour de France selection here,” he said post-stage from the paddock.  

Normally, with regard to Cavendish, the answer would have been a simple yes.  

Then there was the candour moment at the Tour last year where Cavendish told TV reporters he simply wasn’t as fast, at least on that particular day, as the new guard of Fernando GaviriaDylan Groenewegen et al.  

His PR script has since changed.   

If you wanted to be really cynical, you could say the Stage 4 crash involving Peter Sagan at the 2017 Tour was indication of new and old egos colliding. Sagan, quite accustomed now to throwing his weight around, didn’t move for Cavendish, which the 2011 world champion, on his name, once would have expected.



Cavendish posted a series of tweets, detailing his disagreement with the decision to leave him out of the Dimension Data team and his return from a debilitating bout of Epstein-Barr virus.

"Well what can I say? I’m absolutely heart-broken by the decision that means I won’t be @Letour this year. As I have done for my entire career, I targeted a specific time to be at peak form. This has pretty much always resulted in me hitting my goals or coming damn close."

"After a long, difficult fight back from trying to compete for the whole of last season with Epstein Barr Virus and after following a specific training program to peak in July, I feel I was in the perfect place."

"Nevertheless, I truly came to @TeamDiData with the purpose of making a difference, by mobilising entire communities in Africa with bicycles through our incredible charity @Qhubeka."

"Though I won’t be there, as always I’ll be supporting my teammates with all I have, wishing them safety and success in France and hoping we can get even more children on bicycles."

Cavendish hasn’t been the sprint king for a while now and while nostalgia is lovely, it shouldn’t cloud sound judgement. 

Legends never die, but people do and times change.  

Dimension Data squad for Le Tour de France: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Stephen Cummings, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Michael Valgren, Roman Kreuziger, Giacomo Nizzolo, Ben King, Lars Bak.