Cavendish out of Scheldeprijs

Mark Cavendish has been forced to pull out of Wednesday's one-day Belgian race Scheldeprijs due to a bout of flu.

The Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider has been suffering from illness since last month's Milan-San Remo and had already withdrawn from both Gent-Wevelgem and the Three Days of De Panne.

He had hoped to make his comeback at Scheldeprijs, which is a Classic geared towards sprinters that he has already won three times.

However, his team manager, Patrick Lefevere, said: "This flu has really weakened him and for a rider like him, it makes no sense to start at only 50 per cent of his form. So we decided to let him rest."

Cavendish has close links with Scheldeprijs, which is held on a flat course in the Flanders countryside. His victory in 2007 was the first big success of his career and he followed it other with subsequent wins in 2008 and 2011.

Cavendish's enforced absence in the past few weeks has led to a change in his upcoming schedule.

Lefevere added: "He will probably be at the Tour of Turkey [April 27-May 4], at the Giro d'Italia [May 9-June 1] and the Tour of California [May 11-18]."

With both Cavendish and the injured Andre Greipel out of Scheldeprijs, German rider Marcel Kittel is the favourite to win the race for the third year in succession.