Mark Cavendish says he will continue racing until at least 2020 with the ambition of winning a gold medal in the Madison in Tokyo as the event returns to the Olympic Games, and also has his eyes on beating Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins at the Tour de France.
The Dimension Data rider crashed out of this year’s race with a broken shoulder blade in the sprint to the line at Vittel on Stage 4 in an incident that saw world champion Peter Sagan of Bora Hasgrohe disqualified for dangerous riding.
One of only five men to have won the points classification at all three Grand Tours – he’s also worn the leader’s jersey at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana – and winner of a Monument at the 2009 edition of Milan-San Remo, an Olympic gold medal has so far eluded the 32-year-old.
The last time the Madison featured in the Olympics, at Beijing in 2008, Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins finished ninth, a disappointing result for the reigning world champions.
At London 2012, he started as a strong favourite in the road race but together with the other Team GB riders was dropped on the final ascent of Box Hill as a strong group got away.
In Rio last year, he finally got an Olympic medal but it was silver as he finished second to Italy’s Elia Viviani in the Omnium.
Three times a world champion in the Madison, most recently with Wiggins at Lee Valley VeloPark last year, he is determined to ride the event when it makes its return to the Olympics in 2020.
Cavendish, who is under contract with Dimension Data until the end of the 2018 season, told The Times: “Before this year I wasn’t sure if this was my last contract.
“And then the Madison was announced and I thought, ‘Right I’m going to go to 2020’.”
His early departure from the Tour de France means he will have to wait another year to try and close in on Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins at the race.
Over the years, Cavendish has consistently said that he is focused on his own racing and not breaking records, but as he enters the autumn of his career, that landmark is very much on his mind.
“The stage I crashed in, I’m still pretty confident I would have won it,” he insisted.
“I believe I’m the best and I believe I will be for a fair few more years. It’s given me the confidence to keep going.
“People would argue that I only win sprint days so [Merckx’s] mountain days mean more,” Cavendish continued (13 of the Belgian’s wins were in time trial stages, and 12 were in the mountains).
“That’s uneducated in my opinion, but a number is a number and it gives me a target. I’d almost run out of targets … and that’s a target I can realistically think about,” he added.
The immediate goal for Cavendish, who had battled back from glandular fever to be fit for the Tour de France, is to be back racing, hopefully at September’s Tour of Britain, depending on his recovery from his injury.
“Obviously having an x-ray every week means there’s a lot of radiation going into your body, so you have to be careful with that,” he said.
“I feel like I can do stuff now, but I don’t want to start only to put my recovery back or end my career.
“It’s going to be another three weeks before I can even ride on the road again. I should get back for the Tour of Britain – I love to ride my home race – but being competitive is another thing,” he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.