Adam Hansen has backed former teammate Mark Cavendish’s decision to postpone his retirement by a year in pursuit of making cycling history.
Hansen, the endurance dynamo turned CPA president, came out of his own retirement to ride alongside Cavendish at the Saitama Criterium on Sunday as a late substitute for Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) in the Tour de France Legends team.
Cavendish has claimed 34 stages of the Tour and shares the all-time stage win record with Eddy Merckx. He’d announced his intention to retire at the end of this year during the Giro d’Italia in May, with the Tour on his agenda.
His attempt to eclipse the record he shares with Merckx was marred when he crashed out of the latter, breaking his collarbone on stage eight. The incident apparently served as impetus to extend with Astana-Qazaqstan for one more year, and one more shot at it re-writing the record books.
“We were speaking about it before,” Hansen said. “If he does it and he doesn’t succeed, then he knows. And if he didn’t come back there would always be a question mark and I don’t think he wanted that over his head.”
“I’ve never seen him, especially in the last five years, so happy to be racing, which is good, and as a friend, I’m happy to see.”
Both in Japan and at the Prudential Singapore Criterium before it, Cavendish has been reserved about his outlook on the 2024 Tour.
However, Astana-Qazaqstan has been busy during the transfer period, signing both lead-out specialist Michael Morkov, who was instrumental in Cavendish’s 2021 Tour comeback, and his former trainer, Vasilis Anastopoulos, from Soudal-Quick-Step. At the race this year the squad also contracted retired Australian Mark Renshaw, Cavendish’s former celebrated lead-out man, as a sprint consultant.
“He was saying with Astana he feels so good there, the environment’s good and this is a big difference and that helps his decision to stay, with [team general manager Alexander] Vinokourov helping him and the support that he’s got there,” Hansen said.
At 38, Cavendish is a veteran in the WorldTour peloton and is not a name that younger sprinters quote when asked to name their rivals.
However, in Japan, when speaking to the numerous fans who attended the Saitama Criterium, a two-day exhibition event on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Briton emphasised the importance of trying and other key, winning traits Hansen still now vividly recalls.
“I remember back in 2007 and Cav and I…