Mark Cavendish heads into the end of the year with an uncertain future despite his “fairy-tale” season. Cavendish made an unexpected return to the Tour de France this year and won four stages to pull level with Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34. The 36-year-old also earned the points leader’s green jersey for the second time in his career. However, talks over a new contract with his Deceuninck-QuickStep team have yet to yield a new deal. Team boss Patrick Lefevere has warned Cavendish must not “overestimate his market value”. But Cavendish is confident his return to prominence will give him leverage in negotiations.
“At the beginning of the year, I was pretty adamant this would be my last year,” Cavendish said on Saturday.
“I wasn’t looking for a fairy tale, I knew I was still good, but ultimately I’ve had a fairy tale.
“What I’ve gained from this year is that I don’t believe that I’ll stay at this level. I believe I’m going to get even better.
“I want to carry on. I still love riding my bike. But if I didn’t believe I was going to get better, I may as well stop because it could be damaging to what I’ve built this year.
“I’m looking at carrying on. I hope it’s with Deceuninck-QuickStep but I don’t know. It’s not down to me.”
Cavendish played down his chances of adding to that tally on the roads of the Tour of Britain this week. With 10 victories, Cavendish has won more stages at the Tour of Britain than any other rider in its modern history. Cavendish believes the rolling routes featured throughout the race, count against bunch sprints. Instead, he said he will try to help his teammates, led by 2018 Tour of Britain winner and reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe.
“There are maybe two (sprints). Perhaps in Warrington and perhaps the final stage, but it depends how the race goes. You need things to go in your favor,” Cavendish said.
Cavendish and Alaphilippe are part of a star-studded field also featuring Wout Van Aert, who denied Cavendish a 35th Tour de France stage win on the Champs-Elysees. Dan Martin, who announced last week that he would retire after this season, is in a strong Israel Start-Up Nation squad that also includes Alex Dowsett. The Ineos Grenadiers have rising star Ethan Hayter alongside former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini