All signs point to Mark Cavendish racing the 2024 Tour de France

As Cavendish is spotted training ahead of his return to racing, sources indicate to GCN that his retirement plans may be postponed

Clock08:18, Wednesday 20th September 2023

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Mark Cavendish came close to winning a stage of the Tour de France this year, before crashing out

Over two and a half months since his Tour de France crash and abandonment, it remains unclear whether Mark Cavendish will prolong his career into 2024 and have one more tilt at Tour de France glory.

However, the indications are that the 38-year-old will decide to row back on the retirement decision he announced in May and extend his career until at least the end of next year’s Tour de France.

The British sprinter, who sits neatly next to Eddy Merckx on 34 record-equalling Tour de France stage wins, has been almost anonymous since crashing out of the Tour and breaking his right collarbone. Surgery has followed and, thankfully, the Astana rider is back on the bike, recently riding alongside Chris Froome and Cameron Wurf in training.

According to his team, he is preparing for a return at the Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye in October.

A number of riders, ex-riders and agents within pro cycling have all indicated to GCN that while they don’t have 100 per cent confirmation from the man himself, all signs point towards a career extension into 2024.

Last month, La Gazzetta dello Sport also reported that a deal between the rider and Astana was close to completion and GCN has discovered that several squads that were discussing a deal with Cavendish ahead of 2023 have not been offered his services for next year.

That could, of course indicate that his retirement plans hold firm but it could also explain Gazzetta’s reporting and why Astana have made so few signings and continue to praise Cavendish in public. A team wouldn’t do that for a rider they had no interest in retaining.

During the transfer period, the team have also strengthened their sprinting and lead-out contingent extensively - arguably more than any other group within the team. In come Davide Ballerini and Max Kanter, while Cees Bol - Cavendish’s primary lead-out rider this season, remains for another year. Kanter has been offered the chance to sprint for himself after leaving Movistar but the chances of him taking an A-level race programme are unlikely, should Cavendish race on the team. The German might find himself even required to lead out the veteran at times during the next season.

Perhaps the most integral aspect to Cavendish remaining at Astana and racing next year is the relationship between the sprinter and team boss Alexandr Vinokourov. Before their alliance at the start of 2023 the pair would have made an unlikely partnership but since Cavendish’s B&B Hotels aspirations fell apart this time last year the relationship with Vinokourov has become unshakable.

It’s worth pointing out that both riders are hardworking ‘old school’ pros. According to sources, Vinokourov knew very little of Cavendish’s real personality having moved in different circles before 2023 but the team boss was hugely impressed with the rider’s commitment and professionalism on and off the bike. Vinokourov sees Cavendish as a bonafide leader in every sense of the word.

Cavendish remaining on the team is certainly a no-brainer from a Vinokourov roster-building perspective too. On a team devoid of a GC threat, and with a raft of experienced riders like David de la Cruz, and Luis León Sánchez moving on or retiring, the Kazakh boss is in need of a lynchpin on which he can hang vital sponsorship and leadership. Cavendish carries that weight, and while he might not race beyond the end of the Tour de France such a move would give Vinokourov breathing space as he tries to find additions for 2024. It’s also important to note that the team have been unable to sign major names for the last few seasons - an ageing Vincenzo Nibali and the ill-fated move for Miguel Ángel López the only true exceptions.

Vinokourov didn’t return calls or messages from GCN this week when contacted but his words earlier this summer provided every bit of evidence needed to indicate his feelings on the situation.

"We want Mark to go on to 2024 and race his 15th Tour de France to win his 35th stage," Vinokourov told L'Equipe during the summer.

"I myself suffered a fractured femur in 2011 on the Tour and it was supposed to be my last year but I didn't want to stop just like that. I stayed on and fought hard to win the Olympic Games in London the following year. Mark has the same mentality and the same determination to achieve his ultimate goal. We're ready to give him that opportunity. But it's up to him."

When contacted by GCN, a spokesperson for the team said, "So far we don’t have any update on this," in relation to Cavendish potentially extending his deal for next year.

The ball is firmly in Cavendish’s court right now and while his retirement announcement remains in place the number of factors that suggest another year in the peloton looks overwhelming. What we don’t know at this point is how much motivation Cavendish has to train for another winter, prepare through the spring and then line up for another Tour de France. There would be no ill will or negativity should he decide to hang up his wheels, and he will go down in history as the greatest sprinter cycling has ever seen, but one more Tour could be too enticing an offer to ignore.

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