Mark Cavendish’s hopes of further wins at the Giro d’Italia have suffered a huge blow after his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl leadout rider, Michael Morkov, withdrew from the race with a fever ahead of Stage 7.
Cavendish and Morkov have formed a formidable alliance since the Brit’s arrival at Quick-Step last year, combining to win Stage 3 at the Giro and four stages at the 2021 Tour de France.
“At the advice of the team’s medical staff, Michael Morkov won’t start today’s Giro stage after developing fever overnight,” Quick-Step said in a statement.
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Cavendish was left frustrated on Stage 6 after being overhauled by Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) in the closing metres of Thursday’s sprint. He also suffered disappointment on Stage 5 when he was distanced on the day’s only climb.
The 36-year-old still has ambitions of being selected for the Tour in July, although his Giro appearance suggests team-mate Fabio Jakobsen is in pole position for Quick-Step's sole sprint spot.
Ahead of the Giro, Cavendish told Eurosport’s new podcast The Breakdown that he was scared a rivalry with Jakobsen would be manufactured as they battle to be picked for France.
“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," said Cavendish.
“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."

'It's the last thing I want' - Cavendish opens up on rivalry fears with Jakobsen

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