Cavendish to race next year to target Tour record

8 months ago 144
Mark CavendishMark Cavendish has won 162 road races across his career

Britain's Mark Cavendish has delayed plans to retire and will race in next year's Tour de France.

That means the sprinter will again have the chance to break the record for Tour stage wins which he currently shares with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx on 34.

"I love riding my bike," he said. "I spoke to the kids; they said carry on."

Cavendish added in a video on his team's social media: "So here we are - just one more year."

The 2024 Tour de France begins in Florence on 29 June, but Cavendish will race the whole season for Astana.

Cavendish was forced out of this year's race on stage eight by a crash in which he sustained a broken collarbone.

"Obviously it wasn't the finish I hoped for, crashing at the Tour de France, but it is what it is," he said.

"We grew incredibly as a team at Astana - it felt like a real family. So much so, the first thing Vino [team boss Alexander Vinokourov] said when I crashed was: 'Why don't you do another year?'

"[I said] 'No, no.' [It was not just] coming back from a collarbone, but coming back from another injury... I was ready [to retire].

"I was at peace, but the more I've ridden this summer... I just love riding my bike."

Analysis - The final, final chapter?

By Matt Warwick, BBC Sport cycling reporter

Cavendish's career has been illustrious, and he is widely regarded as the best sprinter of all time.

His explosive brand of riding in the final metres of flatter, sprint stages has seen him win more Tour stages than anyone else, other than Merckx.

The Belgian, whose victories came during the Sixties and Seventies, won on all types of stages, including mountain stages, on his way to winning the overall yellow jersey a record-equalling five times.

Cavendish is a very different type of rider. An out and out sprint specialist, Cavendish focuses purely on winning on the flat roads in towns and cities.

He dominated the sprinting scene for many years - can he win in the Tour one last time?

'A true champion should not end his career that way'

One of the most notable things about Cavendish's career was his return to form following a difficult period from 2017 to 2020 in which he suffered from injury and illness.

He nearly quit the sport as he struggled with his mental health, but in 2021, already at an age when many riders would have chosen to retire, he returned to the Belgian Quick Step team to win four stages at that year's Tour de France.

He shocked the sport by equalling Merckx's seemingly unassailable record, and came within a couple of feet of breaking it on the blue riband final sprint stage on Paris' Champs Elysees.

But after being left out of the 2022 Tour, and seemingly out of contract at the end of that year - after a French team he had planned to join folded - he joined Kazakhstan's Astana at the last minute for 2023 and won brilliantly on the final stage of this year's Giro d'Italia in Rome.

Cavendish narrowly missed out on breaking the Tour record this year just before his crash when he was beaten in a furious dash to the line in Bordeaux.

Vinokourov said: "There is no secret that the Tour de France and a stage win there was the main goal for Mark. And on stage seven he was very close to breaking his historical record.

"However, a heavy crash a day later crossed out all the plans of both the rider and the team.

"I believe that a true champion should not end his career this way. So, I asked Mark if in a few years he would regret that he didn't try again, and, in turn, suggested to reconsider his decision, to stay for another season, and still to try to win a stage in the Tour de France.

"For the next year we are preparing thoroughly, seriously reviewing the squad, strengthening the sprint direction, making personnel changes.

"It won't be easy to better the record he shares with Eddie Merckx, it would be a historic achievement, but we have a chance, and we have to use it.

"As for the plans after 2024, certain discussions are under way, and the team is interested in continuing cooperation with Mark. But, of course, first of all our thoughts are about the upcoming season."

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