What will Mark Cavendish do next? And does it really matter?
This Tour de France was everything Cavendish needed it to be, one final act of redemption. A fresh chapter at – or maybe just near to – the end of his story. A final glorious moment that will banish the words ‘Epstein Barr’ from his page in the cycling history books.
It’s easy to start wondering what the future holds for Cavendish, but right now in the present he surely has done enough to satisfy his most ambitious self. Tied equal for stage wins at the Tour de France, two green jerseys; his status as the best sprinter there has ever been (with possibly the worst nickname there has ever been) is cemented in place forever. More importantly, he has proved to the world what he always knew; that he had more to offer in the sport of cycling.
Tour de France
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Today, it’s hard to really appreciate just how down and out Cavendish seemed at his lowest ebb, when he was battling the virus that effectively hobbled him for three full seasons. As recently as last October, Cavendish was in tears, stating that Gent-Wevelgem might well have been his final race of his career, after coming home 74th and six minutes down. To go from that moment to this. What more could we really ask of him?
He has repeatedly denied – at times jokingly and at times genuinely irately – any interest in breaking Eddy Merckx’s record of stage wins at the Tour. It is easy to take him at his word after seeing him surrounded by his kids on the podium in Paris with green on his shoulders for just the second time in his long and glittering career, and a beaming grin that we have seen more than a couple of times.
By all accounts, Cavendish does not have a contract with Deceuninck beyond the end of this season – yet. And without taking anything away from his achievements, the stars have aligned perfectly for him to win four stages at this year’s Tour and draw level with Merckx. He’ll never have a better opportunity to win stages of the Tour again, and Deceuninck team boss Patrick LeFevere is too dispassionate an operator to pick Cavendish on anything other than his chances of a result. Whether he secretly wanted to beat it or not, the record is probably out of his reach now.
But that being said, the door is open for Cavendish to carry on. He is supposed to have contract talks lined up with the team soon, but you wouldn’t blame the man for wanting to go out on this highest of all highs.
It’s certainly difficult to imagine a more fitting ending to a storied career.
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