Mark Cavendish’s decision to continue racing for another season and battle to try to break Eddy Merckx’s all-time record for Tour de France stage wins is not just excellent news for Astana Qazaqstan but also for the sport in general, says team manager Alexander Vinokourov.
The British sprinter was due to retire at the end of the season, but having crashed out of the Tour de France this summer and broken his collarbone, Astana officially confirmed that he would instead race on for another year.
Cavendish will now return to racing in the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey, but depending on his condition after such a long spell away will either be riding for wins himself or to support the team’s other contenders, Vinokourov told Cyclingnews.
As for 2024, the team have yet to decide on a specific race program other than the Tour. But Vinokourov also said he expects some changes in Cavendish’s training schedule as well, with a spell at altitude camp, possibly in Colombia, quite likely to be on the books. The key thing, as Vinokourov said, is that Cavendish is back racing and ready to fight on.
“When I talked to Mark after his accident, I said I believed that crashing out like that was no way for a champion as big as him to end his career,” Vinokourov told Cyclingnews.
“I proposed to him to go on and do another year, do a last Tour de France and he spent a good while thinking it through. He talked to his family, of course, but the decision to go on for another year is wonderful news, both from a sponsorship point of view, but also for the sport itself.”
Every cloud has a silver lining and one big advantage for Astana Qazaqstan and Cavendish Vinokourov says, is that they will have much more time to plan out the following season. In 2022, Cavendish’s signing was very much last-minute and they could barely contract any more riders beyond the Briton himself.
In stark contrast, the news on Wednesday that Cavendish’s former leadout man Michael Mørkøv and Soudal-QuickStep trainer Vasilis Anastopoulos will both be joining the squad, the latter as head of performance, felt very much like a boosted statement of intent concerning Astana’s desire to help Cavendish take Tour de France stage win number 35 in 2024.
“Already after the Tour we talked with Mark and we said we’d do the maximum to try and change things,” Vinokourov said. “This year in the Tour, we were lacking a last man in the sprints.
“But in the future, we’ve got Cees Bol,[Yevgeni]…