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Britain’s Mark Cavendish will return to the Tour de France for the first time since 2018 when this year’s race begins on Saturday in Brest.

The 36-year-old has been named in Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s squad of eight.

Cavendish has 30 Tour stage wins – second only to Belgian great Eddy Merckx who is on 34.

“It is the biggest bike race in the world, and I am going to do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands,” he said.

The former Team Sky rider has struggled for form in recent seasons and was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus in 2017.

But he has enjoyed a resurgence after returning for a second spell with Quick-Step at the start of this season, winning four stages of the Tour of Turkey in April and the final stage of the Tour of Belgium this month.

His inclusion comes with Irishman Sam Bennett ruled out through injury and unable to defend the green jersey he won in last year’s race.

Cavendish added: “Obviously the circumstances with Sam could be better – he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey.

“But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history.”

Bennett, 30, enjoyed an outstanding Tour last year, claiming two stage wins – his first in the race – before unexpectedly dethroning Peter Sagan in the points classification, a competition the Slovakian has dominated since 2012.

However, the same injury which saw him ruled out of the Tour of Belgium will now bar him from the biggest race of all.

“Needless to say, I’m very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year’s Tour de France,” Bennett said.

“I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which affected my knee. While the injury I sustained is very short-term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.”

Earlier, Simon Yates was confirmed as part of Team BikeExchange’s squad for the race.

The 28-year-old Briton, who had two stage wins in 2019, earned a podium finish at last month’s Giro d’Italia and will look to continue his good form as he builds up to the Olympic road race this summer.

SOURCE: BBC Sport – Cycling RSS   (go to source)
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