Mark Cavendish will begin the Tour de France for a 14th and remaining time with the last word ambition of claiming his thirty fifth stage win, which might see him surpass the file he presently shares with Eddy Merckx.
The Manxman turned 38 throughout the Giro d’Italia and isn’t as quick as he as soon as was, however he nonetheless discovered a strategy to cross the road first. He has struggled to get to the entrance in many of the sprints he has contested this season although he nonetheless received in fashion on the ultimate day in Rome, confirming that he ought to by no means be written off.
12 months after yr on the Tour de France, Cavendish has used his aerodynamic and highly effective sprinting fashion to surge forward of rivals with the mix of pace and willpower carrying him to victory time and time once more.
“Cav is Cav,” was Max Sciandri’s succinct maxim, which one way or the other captured Cavendish’s distinctive means and character. His success earned him the moniker of ‘Cannonball’ within the British tabloids, a nickname that’s nonetheless common in Italy even in the present day. French observers weren’t at all times as enamoured after quite a few spats and controversies, however Cavendish’s years of success on the Tour consecrated him as one of the best sprinter within the sport.
Forward of Cavendish’s remaining Tour, Cyclingnews casts a look over the varied phases of his relationship with the race that outlined his profession. There have been 34 stage victories and two inexperienced jerseys, however there have been additionally dangerous crashes, anger in defeat and the ache of ending exterior the time restrict.
The 2023 Tour provides Cavendish the proper situation through which to finish his skilled profession. Even when he fails to win one other stage, he’ll nonetheless be celebrated one final time as the best sprinter of all time. For the event, his Astana-Qazaqstan group has even employed his previous lead-out man Mark Renshaw as a ‘dash guide’ at some point of the Tour.
If Cavendish wins once more, notably if he does so on the ultimate stage on the Champs-Élysées, he might even finish his profession there after which, with a mic drop sign-off. He would don’t have anything else to show.
2007: London debut ends in tears, however sparks a love affair
Biking in Britain was about to blow up when the Tour de France began in London in 2007 and Cavendish’s profession was additionally prepared for take-off after he joined the German group for his first full season as an expert.
Cavendish was solely 22 however he had already received Scheldeprijs and captured the eye of the British media way over Bradley Wiggins, David Millar or fellow debutant Geraint Thomas.
T-Cellular held their presentation at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in East London and Cavendish had an bold swagger and a sprinter’s pure confidence. He dearly needed to win a stage or at the least be within the outcomes however he crashed with 21km to go on the opening stage to Canterbury and was in tears on the end, emotional about additionally dropping a particular pair of his beloved Oakley sun shades.
He fought for different dash alternatives when the Tour reached France, however additional crashes left Cavendish battered and bruised, and he failed to complete stage 8 to Tignes within the Alps.
“We by no means obtained it proper and he virtually crashed almost each single day. It was simply too worrying for all of us, however you might see the potential was there,” Eisel recalled when talking to Cyclingnews in 2021.
2008-2011: The imperial section
Cavendish’s first ever Tour de France win got here on stage 5 to Châteauroux in 2008, the place he would go on to win once more in 2011 and in 2021.
He had already received two levels on the Giro d’Italia and carried his kind into July whereas sporting the blue Workforce Colombia jersey, hungry for that first win in France. It was the beginning of Cavendish’s peak on the Tour.
On the stage to Châteauroux, the break was solely caught within the lengthy and straight remaining kilometre and Cavendish opted to go early, sprinting down the center of the street with confidence. He held off Oscar Friere and Erik Zabel and put his fingers on his head in astonishment when he realised he had received.
“It’s the most important factor to occur to me no doubt,” Cavendish stated instantly after the dash. “To win a stage is huge and to win it so younger is wonderful.”
Cavendish didn’t begin stage 15 as a consequence of fatigue however by then he had received three extra levels in Toulouse, Narbonne and Nîmes.
“He at all times had that zeal and dedication for the Tour, even when he was an immature child who had simply received his first Tour stage,” Eisel defined. “Successful in Châteauroux in 2008 modified all the things. From there it simply snowballed.”
Cavendish received Milan-San Remo on his debut in early 2009 after which received six levels within the Tour that yr within the shiny yellow and white of HTC-Colombia. Mark Renshaw was now his trusted lead out-man they usually dominated the sprints, together with on the Champs-Élysées, the place they completed first and second.
The bar was now set very excessive certainly, and the burden of expectation was evident when Cavendish burst into tears on the rostrum after opening his account for the 2010 Tour on stage 5 in Montargis. The early a part of his 2010 season had been blighted by issues and he had begun the Tour with a crash on stage 1, however now he was up to the mark, including one other 4 wins earlier than Paris.
Cavendish would once more declare 5 stage wins in 2011. On this period, he was nearly unbeatable in a dash and was indignant and pissed off each time any beat him to the road, such was his ambition and drive.
In 4 editions of the Tour between 2008 and 2011, Cavendish received 20 occasions, thus claiming over 1 / 4 of the levels he contested. His consistency in 2011 additionally secured him the inexperienced factors jersey. The yr would finish with a coronation in Copenhagen as he added the rainbow jersey of world champion.
2012: Sky proves a restrict
With Bob Stapleton unable to discover a sponsor, 2011 marked the tip of an period and Cavendish joined Workforce Sky to race within the rainbow jersey.
The British group was concentrating on general victory on the Tour de France in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins however they made room of their line-up for Cavendish and Eisel after he received a string of races within the spring.
Cavendish received in Tournai on stage 3, beating former nemesis Andre Greipel and in Brive within the remaining week, earlier than he claimed a fourth successive win in Paris, with Wiggins serving to within the lead-out whereas sporting the yellow jersey. It was the highpoint of their shut however sometimes conflicting relationship, with Cavendish opting to depart Workforce Sky after only a yr. Workforce Sky was targeted on marginal positive factors and Grand Excursions, whereas Cavendish went his personal means looking for extra dash wins.
2013-2015: Harrogate crash and the primary QuickStep years
Cavendish joined Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2013 and began a brand new section in his profession and Tour de France sprinting that lasted till 2015.
2013 was prolific, with Cavendish profitable 5 levels on the Giro d’Italia however he ‘solely’ received two levels on the Tour de France, with a sequence of placings in 4 different sprints leaving him pissed off. For the primary time, he suffered a defeat on the Champs-Élysées, dropping out to Marcel Kittel.
The 2014 Tour de France began in Yorkshire and Cavendish hoped to win the opening dash and take the yellow jersey in his mom’s hometown of Harrogate. Nevertheless, he collided with Simon Gerrans with 200 metres to go, crashed arduous and separated his shoulder. He loved moments of big success on the Tour throughout the years but in addition of ache and disappointment.
The 2015 Tour de France additionally proved to be laborious, with simply 5 dash finishes, and Cavendish’s lone victory got here in Fougères.
He was in poor health by the point reached Paris and he was solely sixth within the Champs Elysees dash. That sparked doubts about his future on the Belgian group, with group supervisor Patrick Lefevere unable or unwilling to proceed paying Cavendish’s wage.
2016-2019: Yellow jersey adopted by wilderness years
2016 was an Olympic yr and Cavendish focused gold within the Madison with Wiggins in addition to profitable massive on the street on the Tour de France.
Olympic gold and the yellow jersey have been the one issues lacking from his palmares and he needed each after signing with Dimension Knowledge, and he was even keen to depart the Tour early to journey to Rio.
Dimension Knowledge reformed his lead-out practice by signing Eisel and Renshaw for 2016 whereas Cavendish break up his time between the street and observe, giving his all to safe choice for the Nice Britain group pursuit squad and pay Dimension Knowledge again for his or her belief.
It left him on nice kind but in addition left him extremely fatigued after a rollercoaster season of feelings, and he would pay a excessive worth in 2017 and 2018.
Cavendish received stage 1 of the 2016 Tour de France in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont overlooking Utah Seashore and emotionally kissed the yellow jersey on the rostrum. It was his twenty seventh Tour win and his first for Dimension Knowledge. He would add one other three earlier than leaving the Tour early to change his focus to the Olympics.
Cavendish’s hopes of Olympic gold additionally ended badly when Wiggins was removed from his greatest within the Madison after peaking for the group pursuit. That left Cavendish fuming however he obtained again to his greatest to complete second within the street race World Championships in Doha behind Sagan.
Cavendish’s 2017 Tour ended on stage 4 when Sagan closed the door on him alongside the obstacles within the Vittel dash. Cavendish went down at pace and fractured his collarbone, with Sagan disqualified from the Tour. The dispute about who was fault ended their relationship for ever.
Cavendish was first recognized with Epstein-Barr in early 2017 and he was pressured to take lengthy breaks from racing throughout that season and particularly in 2018. He missed a giant a part of the 2018 spring however thought he had recovered for the Tour. Nevertheless, he struggled to be aggressive within the Tour sprints and completed exterior the time restrict on the mountain stage to La Rosière.
Cavendish would later reveal that he suffered with despair throughout his three-year struggle to return to full well being. He blamed Dimension Knowledge’s medical employees for struggling to diagnose his sickness and his relationship with group supervisor Doug Ryder broke down in 2019 when he was not chosen for the Tour de France.
2021: The unimaginable comeback at QuickStep
Cavendish additionally missed the Tour de France in 2020 when it was held in late summer time as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, a season when he was given a lifeline by his former coach and mentor Rod Ellingworth at Bahrain-McLaren.
His profession appeared over in late 2020, Cavendish admitting as a lot and in tears, after driving Gent-Wevelgem. But he managed to influence Patrick Lefevere to offer him a spot at what was then Deceuninck-QuickStep, discovering the sponsorship to cowl his restricted wages, so he might have one final shot at retaining his profession alive.
Future stepped in to pay Cavendish again for his willpower. Sam Bennett was unable to experience the 2021 Tour de France as a consequence of damage and so Cavendish obtained a late call-up.
He grabbed the chance, mixed completely with leadout man Michael Mørkøv and received 4 levels on the Tour and took the inexperienced jersey. He received in Châteauroux for a 3rd time in his lengthy profession after which equalled Eddy Merckx’s 34-stage win file in Carcassonne.
Cavendish might have received his thirty fifth victory on the Champs-Élysées however he was solely third behind Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen as one more new era of riders emerged.
Though Cavendish and Lefevere ultimately reached an settlement for 2022, it was quickly clear that he was not the primary sprinter on the group. Fabio Jakobsen rode the Tour de France as QuickStep’s lead sprinter, whereas Cavendish needed to accept a stage win on the Giro and a second British nationwide street title.
He was set to guide the B&B Resorts groups in 2023 however was strung alongside like everybody else concerned, lastly admitting within the remaining months of 2022 that he was desperately in search of a group to maintain his profession alive.
2023: The final hurrah at Astana
After weeks of negotiations and sightings of Cavendish coaching in Spain, Astana Qazaqstan introduced his signing in January and commenced to construct a lead-out practice as they pivoted to develop into a dash group. Leads to the early months have been missing however the objective was at all times about profitable yet one more stage on the Tour de France.
Cavendish received in Rome on the Giro d’Italia just a few days after confirming that 2023 can be his remaining season, as soon as once more proving he ought to by no means be written off.
The 2023 Tour de France might be 14th and his final, every dash end an opportunity for him to win a thirty fifth stage and so make historical past because the file holder of stage victories on the Tour. It might be the fairytale ending for Cavendish.