Mark Cavendish has revealed he will not ride the Giro d’Italia which begins in Northern Ireland next month.
The absence of the fastest road cyclist in the world is a blow for local cycling fans and Giro organisers who had hoped the 28-year-old Isle of Man athlete, known as Cav, would compete.
But the rider, who has suffered illness recently, has now said he will instead prepare for the Tour de France.
In a statement from the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step (OPQS) cycling team, Cavendish, who won five stages and the red points jersey at the 2013 Giro d'Italia, explain his reasons for skipping this year’s event, which starts in Belfast on May 9.
“As everybody knows, my big goal this year is the Tour de France,” he said. “Especially as it starts in my native country. My programme is shaped for that moment.
“This year I will skip the Giro d'Italia. I'm saddened as it's a race that has given me great satisfaction in the past.
“I have great memories and victories, even last year. But, with the Tour de France as my main objective this year, we had to make some choices.
“I'm sure passing through the Tour of Turkey, and a great, well-organised race like Tour of California will get me in shape and ready for the Tour de Suisse, which will be my final tune-up for the Tour de France.”
OPQS development manager Rolf Aldag explained why it has opted to have Cavendish ride the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse rather than the Giro.
“With the sickness Mark had, we had to reshape his calendar a little bit,” he said. “It’s a shame because Mark showed how strong he was at Milano-San Remo.
"He could have taken advantage of his condition during the period immediately after that race.
"But it is what it is and now we have rebuilt the best approach for Cavendish heading into the Tour.
"Cav is now training in Italy and will be back at Tour of Turkey with a good, strong team around him. With Tour of Turkey we will open the second part of his season that culminates with the Tour de France."