Mark Cavendish will return to the Tour de France one final time, having confirmed he is reversing his decision to retire at the end of this season.
The 38-year-old from the Isle of Man will sign a one-year contract extension with Astana-Qazaqstan to compete in the 2024 cycling season.
The decision provides Cavendish with a final opportunity to break the all-time record of 34 Tour de France stage wins, which he currently shares with Eddy Merckx.
Having announced his original retirement plans in May, the 2023 Tour de France was billed as Cavendish’s final appearance at the legendary race.
The Manxman’s challenge was ended in the cruelest possible circumstances.
Having come within a whisker of the historic victory on Stage 7, Cavendish broke his collarbone in an anonymous crash in the peloton on Stage 8, seemingly ending the career of a true cycling great.
However, rumors immediately began to swirl that Astana-Qazaqstan boss Alexander Vinokourov was attempting to persuade Cavendish into one final bid for glory in 2024. News of the sprinter’s retirement U-turn will come as a surprise to few in the peloton.
“I spoke to the kids. They said carry on.”
“We grew incredibly as a team this year, and it felt like a real family,” said Cavendish in a video posted to the team’s social channels. “So much so that the first thing Vino[kourov] said to me when I crashed out was, ‘Why are you not doing another year?’
“I was ready [to retire]. I was at peace, but the more I’ve ridden this summer – I just love riding my bike. I’ve spoken to the kids, ‘What should Dad do?’ And it was, ‘Carry on, it’s not a question!’
“So here we are. Just one more yeah eh!”
Can Cavendish break the record?
Make no mistake; Cavendish has his work cut out to win a single stage of the 2024 Tour de France.
He’ll be 39 by the time the race gets underway in Florence on 29 June, an almost unprecedented age for an elite sprinter. He also faces stiff competition, with this year’s green jersey-winner Jasper Philipsen looking ominously dominant, along with a host of young sprinting talent.
However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Cavendish’s career, it’s to never rule him out.
He’s battled Epstein-Barr virus and mental health issues which almost led him to quit cycling during a period of tough form between 2017 and 2020, before returning in stunning fashion in 2021 to win four stages and the Points Classification.
He was then left out of the QuickStep squad for the 2022 Tour, before accepting a “final” one-year contract with Astana-Qazaqstan that saw him brilliantly win the final stage of the 2023 Giro d’Italia and come so close to history at the Tour de France.
What do you think? Could Cavendish win one more Tour de France stage in 2024 to make the record his own?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!