Sir Bradley Wiggins says that Mark Cavendish “deserves a far better send-off” from cycling after the Bahrain-McLaren rider suggested in an emotional TV interview after yesterday’s Gent-Wevelgem that he may have ridden his last race.
Speaking on his Eurosport podcast, The Bradley Wiggins Show, he also suggested that Sir Dave Brailsford could sign Cavendish to ride for Ineos Grenadiers for 2021 to give him a swansong season.
Following yesterday’s Belgian Classic when he spent much of the day in the break, Cavendish was in tears as he told a Sporza reporter following the finish, “That’s perhaps the last race of my career.”
The 35-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season, with negotiations reportedly ongoing over a possible extension.
However, having struggled with illness and injury in recent seasons, the once seemingly invincible sprinter’s last victory came back in February 2018.
Wiggins said: “Mark’s like my little brother, I love him. It’s not nice watching him cry on the telly like that.
“For someone who’s done so much in the sport: world champion, Milan San-Remo winner, 30-odd stages on the Tour, being one of the people who catapulted cycling to where it is in this country.
“For someone like that to have to exit a sport that he loves and thrives on like this, through other people’s decision … you always want to have an element of control when you leave the sport.”
These are of course uncertain times in the sport due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and some teams, including Cavendish’s current employers, losing sponsors.
However, Wiggins insisted: “I wouldn’t imagine it would be about money or anything about that. Just sign the f*cking guy. It’s alright being a manager and saying ‘I can’t put personal considerations’ and all that. But Cav has transcended the sport. He’s Cav. It’s why we call him Cav.”
The pair were twice world champions in the Madison, including in London in 2016, and rode together at Team Sky as Wiggins won the Tour de France – memorably wearing the yellow jersey as he led Cavendish out on the Champs-Elysees for what would be his fourth successive final-day stage win in Paris.
“We were like Ant and Dec, me and him in the day,” he said. “Cav and Wiggo. And with the season we’ve had it’s very difficult I know, but he would race until he’s 45 if he could.
"His personality off the bike elevated the sport within the UK. There have been catalysts within British cycling: Tommy Simpson, Pippa York, Chris Broadman, David Millar … and then me and Cav I guess in that era. These people are part and parcel of why people ride their bikes.
“Give him another year,” Wiggins said. “Say it’s his last year, and everywhere he goes he’s feted. You don’t let people leave the sport like that. All great sportsmen get to leave in their own way, and I don’t like seeing him drift off like that.
“I’m worried he won’t get what he deserves, because it is the way it is and it’s full of ****s and someone’s got to step in,” Wiggins added. Brailsford, come on! Sign him for Ineos for another year.”
Whether Cavendish has indeed ridden his last race remains to be seen. Before the weekend it was reported that he would lead Bahrain-McLaren at Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs, a race he has won three times.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.