Mark Cavendish will return to the Tour de France following three years away after he was named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter.

Cavendish has been in fine form in 2021 but was expected to miss out on a place at the Tour as team-mate Sam Bennett won the points classification last year.

However, Bennett will not get the opportunity to defend his green jersey due to a knee injury.

Deceuninck-QuickStep could hardly call on a more experienced replacement, as Cavendish has 30 Tour stage wins to his name.

That haul trails only Eddy Merckx's 34 in the all-time standings and sits well clear of Peter Sagan's 12 – the next-best among active riders.

"I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep," said Cavendish, who claimed the green jersey in 2011.

"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."

 

Bennett said: "Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year's Tour de France.

"I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which effected my knee.

"While the injury I sustained is very short term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.

"Le Tour deserves me at my best and it would do my team, and myself, an injustice to race in my current condition. I wish the whole Wolfpack a successful three weeks on the road of France."

Cavendish is joined in a talented line-up by, among others, Julian Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to wear the world champion's rainbow jersey at the Tour de France since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The 29-year-old is also the most recent Frenchman to have worn the yellow jersey, having done so for three days in last year's Tour. He previously led the race for 14 days in 2019.

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