Sidelined just last week for an ankle injury, charismatic sprint star Mark Cavendish has been diagnosed with glandular fever, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. And what can only be bad news for this summer’s Tour de France, according to his Dimension Date team, there is no date set for the Brit’s return.

Story by AFP | Images James Startt

The 31-year-old has not raced since the Milan-San Remo one-day event on March 18 and his absence was at first attributed to a right ankle injury. But Team Dimension Data said in a statement: “Recent blood work has revealed that Mark Cavendish suffers from infectious mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.”

Infectious mononucleosis is also known as glandular fever.

“Mark has been experiencing some unexplained fatigue during training,” added team doctor Jarrad van Zuydam. “Unfortunately, there is no effective specific treatment against the virus but rest will be required to aid his recovery. It is difficult to give an accurate estimate of when we can expect him back at full fitness but we are hopeful of a significant improvement of his symptoms over the next two weeks.”

Cavendish made a much-celebrated return to the summit of sprinting in last year’s Tour de France, where he won the yellow jersey for a day as well as an impressive four stages, giving him 30 career stage wins in the Tour de France, just four wins away from equaling Tour de France great Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins.

The 2017 Tour, which starts in the German city of Dusseldorf on July 1, offered the Cavendish multiple opportunities to edge even closer, or perhaps equal or surpass Merckx, as the British rider has won as many as six stages in a single Tour.

But now, his presence in the Tour has come into question. And even if he manages to start, will he be able to do so at 100%? “His training load and symptoms will be monitored very carefully and he will make a gradual, step-wise return to full training and racing,” van Zuydam said.