Team Dimension Data head of performance Rolf Aldag considered walking away from the Tour de France on the opening day as the row over Mark Cavendish’s non-selection rumbled on.
Aldag considered his position after he and team principal Doug Ryder gave conflicting statements on the matter, with Ryder saying it was a “team decision” to leave Cavendish at home while Aldag said he had selected the Manxman only to be overruled.
The non-selection of the 30-time Tour stage winner overshadowed not only Dimension Data’s build-up to the Tour but also Giacomo Nizzoli’s fourth-placed finish on the opening stage, and Ryder on Saturday only added fuel to the fire as he contradicted his own head of performance.
Ryder’s comments, which led Cavendish’s wife Peta to call him a ‘coward’ on social media, so frustrated Aldag that the German questioned whether his continued presence at the Tour was a benefit or a burden to the team.
“We have to do what’s good for the team, what’s good for the eight riders,” Aldag told PA. “I’m obligated to do that. If it’s the best for me to do that, to help them with my experience of 27 Tours de France than that’s what I’m going to do.
“I think everybody has to judge himself on whether he can be helpful or not helpful, and in every Tour de France that is the case for me.
“Do I contribute or not contribute? The situation for me is to help the eight guys here and that is what I will focus on. I can’t really be distracted. It doesn’t matter what happened if and when and how so I would just like to put that story to bed and move forward.”
Asked if he had been frustrated to hear Ryder’s comments, Aldag said: “What really frustrates me is that we can keep on discussing it, it makes no sense. The fact Mark Cavendish is not here is unchangeable.
“We’re not playing football, we can’t bring in a replacement rider for stage four or stage 10. It becomes irrelevant in that sense.
“That really frustrates me so this is going to be the last time talking about it.”
Cavendish has made his name in the Tour de France, but the last of the 34-year-old’s victories here came in 2016. Since then he has been hampered by the Epstein-Barr virus as well as a number of injuries.
Though he has raced little this year, Aldag indicated on Saturday had been impressed by Cavendish’s form – pointedly saying physically seen Cavendish on a bike where others had not – and that he was confident he could have been a factor in the Tour.
Whether or not it was the right call to leave him at home, the handling of the decision has laid bare considerable internal tensions within the team.
It was no surprise that Sir Bradley Wiggins, a friend of Cavendish’s, would criticise the decision not to select him, but the 2012 Tour winner went further as he suggested there were now splits within the team.
“I feel sorry for the other riders on that bus,” Wiggins told Eurosport. “I think it is very split.
“A lot of people don’t like Doug Ryder, certainly a lot of the riders don’t like him. A lot of people don’t like Rolf Aldag. The riders shouldn’t be put in that position. That is where good management comes in.”
Cavendish is now certain to leave the team when his contract expires at the end of the season, while it remains to be seen how much longer Aldag stays too.
The former Team Telekom rider said his relationship with Ryder is “absolutely” fine after clear-the-air talks on Sunday morning.
“We had breakfast this morning, eating together,” he said. “I think we discussed it more than enough.”