Team Dimension Data head of performance Rolf Aldag has confirmed he selected Mark Cavendish for the Tour de France before being overruled by team principal Doug Ryder.
In comments which revealed internal tension over the decision, Aldag said he believed the 30-time Tour stage winner could have been competitive in the race, having fought his way back to fitness after suffering with the Epstein-Barr virus.
Ryder has insisted it was a “team decision” to leave Cavendish out of the final eight-man squad, though he did acknowledge there were “differences of opinion”.
“There’s no secret about it,” Aldag said. “I wanted to have him here and I think he would have suited our strategy but ultimately it was a team owner decision.
“It’s within my responsibility to select a team and I called eight names and Mark was included.
“The team owner has the right to overrule me, which he did.”
Cavendish has had only a limited race schedule this year as he followed a training plan designed to get him in shape for the Tour, and only last week he was at an altitude camp in Austria expecting to get the call.
That has left Cavendish short of results with which to build a case for inclusion, but Aldag pointedly said that he had been with the Manxman and seen his form first hand where others had not.
“I have physically seen him, I’m one of very few who have physically seen him and been following him for quite a while,” he said.
“I was there (at the Tour of Slovenia last month) and I’ve seen a Mark Cavendish who is 300 per cent better than in 2016 when he dropped out on stage two and fell asleep in my car after 20 kilometres because he was so tired.
“That’s why I thought he was definitely in a good path and in a good way so it was worth taking him.
“I’m not just talking about (doing it for) the media and to give him another Tour de France. I thought about the sprints and that he’s a good choice.”
Aldag was speaking moments after Ryder took questions on Cavendish’s absence for the first time.
“Mark is a legend of this race,” Ryder said. It is sad for the race that he’s not here.
“We took that into account for sure and spoke to the organisers as well. We selected a team based on the route and how hard it is this year.
“Multiple people made that decision There was a whole team involved, it was a team decision. Our whole high performance team was involved.”
Ryder said he felt a route that includes only four pure sprints as well as three harder opportunities was too mountainous for Cavendish.
“The race this year is so, so hard,” he said. “We’ve done four Tour de Frances and this route presented to the teams is as hard as our first Tour in 2015. The team we have in this race is representative of that and our strategy.
“This was a team decision from our high performance team. There was a difference of opinions but when you add all those opinions together and the conversations we had internally and all of the information we had available, we felt we selected the best team for this year’s Tour de France.”
When Ryder’s comments were posted on social media, Cavendish’s wife Peta replied, saying there was a “fair amount of fiction” in Ryder’s statements before branding him a “coward” in a reply to a fan.
It is now certain the 34-year-old Cavendish will now be looking for a new team at the end of the season when his contract expires, but asked if his relationship with his star sprinter remains good, Ryder said: “Yes, absolutely”.