Mark Cavendish will return to the Tour de France for the first time since 2018 after he was called up to a Deceuninck squad led by world champion Julian Alaphilippe. Cavendish, whose 30 Tour stage wins are second only to Eddy Merckx, was included after Irish rider Sam Bennett was ruled out through injury. Bennett took two stages last year as he won the points competition on the Tour.

“I’m very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey,” said Bennett on the team website.

Following a patchy few years, 36-year-old Cavendish returned to Deceuninck after a six-year gap this season and has enjoyed a resurgence.

He ended a two-year victory drought by winning four stages of the Tour of Turkey in April and then took the final stage of the Belgium Tour this month.

“I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep,” said.

“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.

“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.”

Cavendish’s last Tour stage win came in 2016. He won the green jersey once, in 2011.

Bennett, 30, said a “very minor incident” in training had affected his knee.

“While the injury I sustained is very short-term, it impacted my trainingfor the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit,” he said.

Alaphilippe (29), winner of five stages in the three previous editions, will have Italian Mattia Cattaneo and Belgian Dries Devenyns to help him in the mountains.

The winner of the Tour of Flanders, Kasper Asgreen from Denmark is also on a strong Deceuninck team.

La Fleche Wallonne 2021 – 85th Edition – Julian Alaphilippe (FRA – Deceuninck – Quick-Step)

Deceuninck Quick Step 2021 Tour de France Roster

Julian Alaphilippe (FRA)

Kasper Asgreen (DEN)

Davide Ballerini (ITA)

Mattia Cattaneo (ITA)

Mark Cavendish (GBR)

Tim Declercq (BEL)

Dries Devenyns (BEL)

Michael Morkov (DEN)

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