Mark Cavendish has avoided talk of potentially extending his career into 2024 to have another crack at the outright Tour de France stage wins record, addressing his fans for the first time since the crash that prematurely ended what was supposed to be, and may still be, his final appearance at the race.
Just hours after the crash and speculation about Cavendish continuing beyond his end-of-year retirement date had already begun, Astana Qazaqstan team manager Alexandr Vinokourov saying his sprinter's career "cannot end here" and hinting that the team would be willing to offer a contract extension.
Speaking from beside his hospital bed back in the UK, Cavendish confirmed he successfully underwent surgery to fit plates to his fractured right clavicle, an injury slightly complicated by the screws from his 2014 Tour crash in Harrogate being affected.
"Slightly more complicated," Cavendish explained. "It'll take a bit longer than the standard couple of weeks for a collarbone, just due to the screws that were in there from a previous injury. But we're still only looking at a number of weeks, so happy days!"
Expressing his gratitude for the support he has received, the Manx Missile did say it wasn't "the ideal way to finish the Tour de France" but did not elaborate on whether he meant this year's race or his career at the Tour.
"I've been absolutely bowled over by the love and support of everyone," he continued. "Fans, colleagues, family, friends. Thank you all so, so, so much. It obviously hasn't been the ideal way to finish the Tour de France, but that's part of the beauty and brutality of cycling!
"But I've felt incredibly lifted thanks to all you beautiful souls living my journey with me. Missing my Astana family, but been cheering them on every day, and will do so all the way into Paris."
Jasper Philipsen, who took his fourth stage win of the Tour yesterday, commented on the Instagram post to wish Cavendish a "speedy recovery", while many of the other comments from fans centred around their hope for him to return in 2024.
On Sunday, just hours after his star rider left the Tour, Vinokourov was already hinting at another year, telling the media: "I hope we will see him soon back in the race. Now it's too early to say something about his race program. For sure, in my opinion, his career cannot end here. I crashed out in the Tour of 2011 but I came back to win Olympic Gold one year later.
"It would be nice if Mark comes back to the Tour for a 15th time and wins that 35th stage. We joked already about it yesterday evening."
Cavendish's crash came midway through stage eight, just a day after he had come close to victory on Friday, finishing second behind Philipsen.
At the Giro d'Italia this May, Cavendish had announced that this will be his final season after 17 years in the pro peloton, making this his final Tour de France.
The 38-year-old went out of the Italian Grand Tour in style, winning the final sprint in Rome after an impromptu lead out by his former teammate Geraint Thomas, providing British fans with echoes of yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins' own lead out for Cavendish on the Champs-Élysées at the 2012 Tour de France.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.