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“Just one more year”: Mark Cavendish to continue racing in 2024 and target Tour de France record

The 38-year-old has postponed his plans to retire after agreeing a new deal with Astana Qazaqstan, saying that “crashing out of the Tour de France was not the finish of my career I hoped for”

“It’s not over yet.” Those four simple words, posted on Astana Qazaqstan’s social media accounts, accompanied by a montage of Mark Cavendish’s successful if ultimately anti-climactic year at the Kazakh team, reverberated around the cycling world this morning. Less than two hours later, the news was confirmed: Cavendish – last seen perched forlornly in the back of a medical vehicle at the Tour de France, his record-breaking dreams in tatters – will continue racing his bike in 2024.

The decision to delay his retirement from professional cycling and extend his contract with Astana, one that has been brewing since the 38-year-old broke his collarbone on stage eight of this year’s Tour while seemingly within reach of nabbing that elusive 35th stage win at the race, was made, Cavendish said in a statement today, following discussions with his family.

“Well, this year I announced my retirement, and I was looking forward to not having to get up and train every day and not to be away from home for such a long time, instead spending time with my family. I love cycling, I love racing, however, I was happy with that decision,” the former world champion, who initially revealed his plans to retire at the end of 2023 at the Giro d’Italia in May, said.

However, Cavendish’s race-ending crash at the Tour – which came just a day after a mechanical issue foiled a golden opportunity to become the outright holder of the record for most stage wins at the race, a mark he currently shares with Eddy Merckx – immediately fuelled speculation that the Manx Missile would return for another crack at stage win number 35.

> "His career cannot end here": Mark Cavendish's team ready to offer him another shot at Tour de France record win

Astana’s general manager, Alexandr Vinokourov, who offered Cavendish a contract in January this year following the controversial collapse of the ill-fated B&B Hotels set-up, told reporters on the morning after the sprinter’s exit that “his career cannot end here”, and that the pair had already “joked” about a return in 2024.

“Obviously, crashing out of the Tour de France was not the finish of my career I hoped for,” Cavendish – who will return to racing for the first time since July at next week’s Tour of Turkey – continued.

“But it is what it is. Together with Astana Qazaqstan, we grew incredibly as a team this year and it felt like a real family.

“So, the first thing Alexandr Vinokourov said to me there at the Tour de France after my crash was ‘why not do another year?’. Well, my first reaction was ‘no, no…’. I was not ready to change my decision, I was at peace with it.

Then, I discussed it with my family, my kids and I got their answer: ‘you should carry on, well, just one more year’.

“So, now I believe I am ready for this, another year as a professional rider, and I am happy I can do it and finish it with Astana Qazaqstan Team. I love this team and even beyond next year I’d like to do something more for this project. However, that’s a question for the future.”

Mark Cavendish Tour de France 2023 stage one (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

Astana’s ability to convince Cavendish to sign on for one more year, what will be his eighteenth full season as a professional since turning pro with T-Mobile in 2007, was no doubt aided by their acquisition of both Michael Mørkøv, the world-class leadout rider who piloted the Manx rider to his four wins at the 2021 Tour, and Vasilis Anastopoulos, Cavendish’s coach during that remarkable comeback season at Quick-Step.

> Mark Cavendish’s top 10 greatest Tour de France stage wins

“There is no secret that the Tour de France and a stage win there was the main goal for Mark,” Vinokourov added in the statement released by Astana this morning.

“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.

“I think Mark thought about it seriously; it’s not easy to reconsider the decision already made, but in the end Mark agreed, and he will spend 2024 as a rider of Astana Qazaqstan Team.

“While this season Mark’s arrival in the team was quite unexpected, then 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 Eddy 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 underway, and the team is interested in continuing cooperation with Mark. But, of course, first of all our thoughts are about the upcoming season.”

After a turbulent autumn and winter last year, a last-ditch deal with Astana led to Cavendish sprinting to a stunning win in Rome on the final day of the Giro d’Italia.

Could another change of heart culminate in a record-breaking victory on the roads of France next July, and the perfect end to a storied career?

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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5 comments

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Jimmy Ray Will | 9 months ago
4 likes

I could imagine the Soudal / Visma merger will have been a big factor in enabling this. Morkov and Anastopoulos, as well as other riders / support to bolster the sprint train. 

I can also see Vino's thinking here. With GC and big classics likely to be dominated by the same super star riders for the next 3-5 years, there is room for a kick arse sprint team to come in and mop up wins (points) a plenty. Build the support structure for Mark next year, and then use that structure to entice the fastest sprinter or two to the team for 2025. 

Avatar
Zjtm231 | 9 months ago
2 likes

Come on Cav!!!

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Spammercial | 9 months ago
1 like

Finally nice good news and not the boring jumbo soudal future, the defevere dementia (never a rider never a director)...go Mark go

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quiff | 9 months ago
3 likes

Fingers crossed. I sincerely hope his form stays good and he stays crash and injury-free until July.   

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henryb replied to quiff | 9 months ago
4 likes
quiff wrote:

Fingers crossed. I sincerely hope his form stays good and he stays crash and injury-free until July.   

I hope he stays crash and injury-free during July as well

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