It seems Mark Cavendish will be having one more crack at the Tour de France, and the Eddy Merckx stage wins record we're not allowed to talk about, in 2024, reports suggesting that a deal with Astana Qazaqstan to continue until at least next summer's race is all but confirmed.
There have been whispers, and other not-so-quiet rumours, that Cavendish would postpone his retirement following the unsatisfying finale that was crashing out of what was meant to be his final Tour without winning a stage.
Now, the Dutch newspaper AD is reporting a deal to extend his Astana contract is almost done, an "agreement reached", with the parties just now negotiating image rights and other minor parts of the contract.
"Without cycling he would be lost in space," a source told the newspaper. Last night, Velo too reported similar, a source telling reporters there that it is "99.9 per cent" certain Cavendish would not retire as he had announced during this year's Giro d'Italia.
There have been rumours from Denmark too, where TV2 on Monday reported a further piece of the puzzle, Cavendish's former leadout man Michael Mørkøv, who piloted the Manx Missile to four stage wins at the 2021 Tour, is expected to join Astana for next season from Soudal Quick-Step.
Cavendish has not raced since stage eight of this year's Tour, the day he crashed out having come agonisingly close to a 35th stage win the day before in Bordeaux. Suffering a broken collarbone in the fall, speculation about his future began almost immediately, team boss Alexander Vinokourov saying "his career cannot end here" and that it "would be nice if Mark comes back to the Tour for a 15th time and wins that 35th stage".
Having appeared on social media training with Chris Froome recently, Cavendish will make his return to racing at the Presidential Tour of Turkey next month, a somewhat strange farewell if this is to be his last season as a professional and in turn adding fuel to the comeback rumours.
At his other Grand Tour appearance in 2023, Cavendish won the final stage of the Giro d'Italia in Rome, catching a friendly helping hand from former British Cycling and Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.
"I was just there, and I saw he only had Luis León [Sánchez] with him, and I thought I'd help a brother out,” Thomas said afterwards.
As things stand, that remains Cavendish's last win. Will we see more in 2024?
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.