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"I don’t want to stop" says Mark Cavendish ahead of racing the Scheldeprijs

Bahrain-McLaren star explains why he thought Sunday's Gent Wevelgem may have been the last race of his career...

Mark Cavendish has opened up about his emotional interview following Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, when he was seen in tears saying that it could have been his last race, the Bahrain-McLaren rider explaining that there was uncertainty in the peloton over whether today’s Scheldeprijs, which he is riding, might be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

> Mark Cavendish in tears after Gent-Wevelgem: “That’s perhaps the last race of my career” (+ video)

Speaking to the Belgian broadcaster Sporza before the start of today’s race, Cavendish said: “I was emotional … there were rumours at the start of the race that the rest of the races were going to be cancelled.

“Obviously Belgium, the government had a meeting on Monday about the restrictions over coronavirus.

“I don’t have next year sorted yet and it dawned on me, it could be the last race of the season, and potentially my career.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I always do, and especially here in Belgium, you know.

“Here at Scheldeprijs was my first win as a professional, and I was looking forward to this race and I was enjoying racing in Belgium.

“I love the Belgian people, I love the racing, it’s pure racing, it’s like when I was a kid again.”

The 35-year-old is on a one-year contract with Bahrain-McLaren and while team principal Rod Ellingworth has said that negotiations are continuing regarding an extension, no agreement has been reached as yet.

Cavendish said that due to that uncertainty, and “with maybe the possibility that the next races weren’t carrying on,” his reaction on Sunday was due to “suddenly realising that it could be my last race.”

He continued: “I don’t have a desire to stop, I don’t want to stop … I love this sport, I give my life to this sport, and I’d like to continue riding my bike. That’s it, really.”

When it was put to Cavendish that the past few years had been very difficult for him, he replied that it’s “relative,” saying that “80 per cent of bike riders don’t win a race in their career. I’m fortunate, I’m looked at, if I don’t win it’s a problem.

“But in 2016, I made a jump to give something back to the sport, I worked with the charity Qhubeka using what I’ve done in the sport to give back to the sport I love, to see it grow in the UK, to see kids riding, to see people ride and loving the sport like this.

“I know there’s more than winning to give to the sport, of course I want to win, but unfortunately it’s how it is, if I’m second it’s looked on as bad, if another rider is second, it’s looked on as good, possibly.”

Turning to the future, he said: “We’ll see what happens, but it’s nice to be here at Scheldeprijs … to see the race go on, I’m super happy to be here.”

Cavendish has taken part in the race on five previous occasions, winning in 2007, 2008 and 2011 and runner-up twice since then.

Due to COVID-19 containment measures and the fact the race could not start in the Netherlands as originally envisaged, it is being held on 10 laps of a 17.3-kilometre circuit entirely in Belgium and with fans urged to stay at home and watch on TV.

Today, as on Sunday, Cavendish is in the break and has led the eight-strong escape group across the line on pretty much every lap so far  – a sign, perhaps, that if this is to be his last race, he will go out in the spotlight, with Sonny Colbrelli potentially the team’s designated rider to contest the near-certain bunch sprint finish.

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.

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