"I don’t want to stop," said Mark Cavendish following a tearful interview after this year’s edition of Gent-Wevelgem. Having today rejoined Deceuninck – Quick-Step, it seems the 35-year-old Manxman has at least a few more races left ahead of him.
Cavendish had a one-year contract with Bahrain-McLaren but without any significant results, feared his career was ending in Belgium in October.
However, earlier today he somewhat cryptically announced his return to the Deceuninck – Quick-Step “Wolfpack” – the team he represented between 2013 and 2015, delivering 44 wins.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) December 5, 2020
“I can’t explain how delighted I am to be joining Deceuninck – Quick-Step,” said Cavendish. “I have never hidden my affection for my time with the team and to me this genuinely feels like I am coming home.
“As well as the incredible group of riders, I can’t wait to start working again with the staff, most of which were here during my first spell and were part of one of the most successful periods of my career, an era that I am immensely proud of.
“Even with an extremely difficult and disrupted season this year, they have shown how strong and unified they are and I am hoping to add to even more. I can’t wait to be back in the Wolfpack.”
Team boss Patrick Lefevere commented: “Us and Mark share many beautiful memories and have a history that goes a long way back. During his three-year spell with the team, he didn’t just claim dozens of victories for the team, he showed amazing panache and what an incredibly dedicated team player he is.
“We are happy to have him return to our family, as he is a leader and brings across a wealth of experience that he can share with our young riders, but at the same time we are confident he still has something to give to the team.”
Quite what races Cavendish will end up riding in 2021 is up for debate. Deceuninck – Quick-Step secured the green jersey at this year’s Tour de France through Irishman Sam Bennett and there is great competition for leadership at most races.
Cavendish’s last victory came at the Dubai Tour in February 2018 and he has not been a prolific winner since 2016.
The sprinter was waylaid by Epstein-Barr virus for the majority of the following two seasons and has since revealed that he was diagnosed with depression as he struggled to overcome it.
His immediate racing ambitions may therefore be modest.
Explaining his tears at Scheldeprijs earlier this year, he had said: “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.”
All the same, with track and road world championships and 30 stages of the Tour de France to his name, it is hard to imagine Cavendish doesn’t harbour hopes of more.