Mark Cavendish is hoping a rivalry is not manufactured with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team-mate Fabio Jakobsen as the pair vie for the same sprint spot at the Tour de France.
The Manx Missile marked his Tour comeback last year with four stage wins as he drew level with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx in the all-time charts on 34 wins.
However, his hopes of breaking the record rest on his Quick-Step bosses as Jakobsen plots his own fairytale comeback. Jakobsen has returned to form in sensational fashion after his life-threatening crash at the Tour of Poland in 2020, with six victories already this season.
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Speaking on Eurosport’s new podcast The Breakdown, Cavendish tells hosts Orla Chennaoui and Greg Rutherford that he has an excellent relationship with Jakobsen and is scared the pair could be played off each other in the build-up to the Tour announcement.
“It's an easy story to make: ‘am I or aren’t I going?’,” said Cavendish. “It's quite a lazy story in my honest opinion - because it's that easy.
“Fabio and myself have supported each other so much the last [few] years. It’s the last thing I want and the last thing he wants.
“The one thing that scares me about all this is for any sort of rivalry to be created between us because we’ve been there for each other.
“Obviously I only know that from experience from knowing what happens - when the press want to create a rivalry. It's not really that nice.
“Unfortunately, it does start to cause friction. We're not like that. We don't want to be like that. That's why I'm quite reluctant to talk about it because I don't want to fall out with a mate because of something that's out of our control.
“But what's in my control is not talking about it. So those outside influences [which] are out of my control can't then affect it.”
Jakobsen has also dismissed a rivalry with Cavendish, insisting in February that “it’s always the best that goes to the Tour”.
The Dutchman is back on song after his crash in Poland, which left him in a coma and with multiple severe injuries including a brain contusion, fractured skull and 10 lost teeth. Dylan Groenewegen was banned for nine months for his part in the crash, which saw Jakobsen pushed into the barriers.
Quick-Step’s Tour line-up is a closely-guarded secret, but Cavendish has been confirmed as their lead sprinter at the Giro d’Italia, which starts on Friday with the Grande Partenza in Budapest.
While that would not rule Cavendish out of the Tour, especially if he impresses in Italy, it might suggest Jakobsen is the preferred option for France.
The spectre of Merckx’s record has loomed over Cavendish for over a decade and the 36-year-old knows there is plenty of goodwill from people hoping he will get the chance to break it.
“I really feel it – really, really feel it,” he said. “I want to win 50 more stages of the Tour! So it doesn't bother me.”
WATCH THE FULL EPISODE NOW:
Episode 1: Mark Cavendish on mental health, the Tour de France and rivalries
Cavendish continued by highlighting a small group of detractors – fans, media and even those within the sport – who want Jakobsen to succeed so he does not have the chance.
“There's some people who will want Fabio to win the Tour so that I’m not going on the Tour,” he continued.
“Don't get me wrong, we’ve talked about it before. It's a very small demographic. It’s that small demographic that does the biggest thing.
“Whoever goes to the Tour – all eight guys – every one of the 22 riders on that team, will be glued and screaming at the TV. You can guarantee that. It’s not right that it is somebody else’s narrative. It p***es me off in a way and I'd rather just not talk about it.”
You can now listen to the full episode on all your usual podcast platforms, with full vodcasts on eurosport.com and our YouTube channel.
'Some people want Fabio to go to the Tour, so I don't' - Cav on chasing Merckx record
The Breakdown series 1 schedule:
May 3 - Mark Cavendish
May 10 - Jamie Chadwick
May 17 - Sir Chris Hoy
May 24 - Jess Learmouth
May 31 - Robert Rinder
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