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“I’ve got a big year next year”: Mark Cavendish hints at new team for 2023

The British champion, who finished second in his final race for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl last weekend, is yet to officially reveal his plans for next season, amid rumours linking him to B&B Hotels-KTM

Mark Cavendish’s second stint at Quick-Step may have ended last weekend in Belgium, but the Manx Missile’s new home for 2023 remains a closely guarded secret.

However, the British champion – who finished second behind Tim Merlier at the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen in Arendonk last Sunday – has hinted on social media over the weekend that a deal for next season has been struck, as Cavendish aims to add to his record-equalling tally of 34 Tour de France stage wins.

“So, it’s the off-season, I’ve finished racing,” Cavendish said in a recent Instagram video. “But I don’t want to put the bike away too quickly, because I've got a big year next year.”

After spectacularly reviving his career with Quick-Step in 2021, which saw him draw level with Eddy Merckx’s famous stage win haul at the ‘big loop’, the 37-year-old was controversially left out of the Belgian team’s Tour squad this year while in touching distance of the outright record (and in good form after winning the British nationals in an impressive all-round display), in favour of stage two winner Fabio Jakobsen.

During the Tour, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl boss Patrick Lefevere admitted that while Cavendish had expressed a desire to race on for another two years, it would not be with his team.

“I think not, it is not possible. It hurts my heart, I would like [...] but every now and then the time comes to say thank you for everything he has done for the team and I hope vice versa. I know he wants to race for another two years… but it is not part of our project,” Lefevere told Gazetta dello Sport in July.

> Mark Cavendish "not part of our project" — Patrick Lefevere confirms Cav will leave Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl 

Since then, the former world champion has been linked to a plethora of teams, including Trek-Segafredo and EF Education-EasyPost (the sprinter was even spotted at an event organised during the Tour by EF’s clothing sponsor Rapha), though those two teams distanced themselves from a move following initial discussions.

VeloNews has revealed that Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert – one of the standout teams of 2022 and the home of Eritrean sensation Biniam Girmay – had also enquired about the Manxman’s availability, but were told that he was off the transfer market.

At the end of August we reported that second-tier outfit B&B Hotels-KTM were leading the way in the race for Cavendish’s signature – and the possible PR coup associated with a crack at stage win no. 35.

> "It's 50/50": Team boss hopeful of Mark Cavendish signing 

The French squad, managed by former pro Jérôme Pineau, has been linked with a significant increase in funding from both the City of Paris and supermarket chain Carrefour (though recent reports in the Netherlands suggest that Amazon France, not Carrefour, will bankroll the team). VeloNews has also reported that the team has applied for a ProTeam licence for next year and has met the UCI’s deadline for the bank guarantee, indicating that it has secured the required funds.

In August, Pineau confirmed that the ambitious project was interested in signing Cavendish – a deal that would almost certainly secure the squad a wildcard place at next year’s Tour – but that the chances of pulling it off were “50-50”.

“Yes, we are talking,” the former Quick-Step rider told Le Télégramme. “He is not one of the five who have already signed. He’s someone I love very much.

“I would very much like him to come to us, but it’s quite complicated. Cavendish is a cycling legend. There is sport but not only… It looks like negotiations for the recruitment of a footballer.

“He wants to come to us but he doesn’t want to come on retreat to us either. If he comes, it will be to win. We want to win together. Today, for his recruitment, let's say it’s 50-50.”

> "I know I'll win again": Mark Cavendish confident of 35th Tour de France stage win 

As Pineau alluded to in August, the Paris-based project has already secured the services of five WorldTour riders for 2023. Among this raft of new signings are believed to be Cees Bol and Nick Shultz – two riders who are represented by the same agency as a certain Mr Cavendish.

While the future of Pineau’s revamped team and Cavendish himself remain shrouded in mystery, all could be revealed by the end of this month, when a team event or press conference is rumoured to take place the day before the 2023 Tour de France route is unveiled in Paris on 27 October.

By then, we may have a clearer picture of Cavendish’s goals and key targets for next season – and the colours he’ll be wearing as he attempts to make history once again.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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