Vasilis Anastopoulos, the new head of performance at Astana Qazaqstan, has said that his main objective at his new team is to attempt to replicate the Quick-Step leadout train that he helped establish, and that brought Mark Cavendish so much success.
It was confirmed by his team on Wednesday that Cavendish is set to ride on for one final year as he looks to attempt to break the record for the most stage wins at the Tour de France. He is currently tied on 34 with Eddy Merckx.
Anastopoulos worked with Cavendish during his second two-year stint at Quick-Step and played a pivotal role in his 2021 and 2022 success at both the Tour and Giro d’Italia.
Along with the announcement regarding Cavendish’s future, Astana announced on Wednesday that the Greek ex-professional turned coach was set to join the team for next year along with lead-out rider Michael Mørkøv.
The latter played a key part in all of Cavendish’s four stage wins at the 2021 Tour.
Alexander Vinokourov’s team has already acquired the services of Davide Ballerini, another former Quick-Step rider, for next year along with the likes of Max Kanter and Ide Schelling.
Anastopoulos said: “It’s not a secret that the Tour de France is the biggest target for Mark for next year. All that counts is the Tour de France stage win, or wins, at the race next year. So I want to make sure that he arrives there in the best possible condition, physical condition.
“As part of that we also have to work on his leadout train. I still believe that Mørkøv is the best leadout guy in the world as the last man. So now as well as Cees Bol and Cav we have Ballerini and Morkov.
“It’s the three guys who did all the four wins in 2021. You know, this was the lineup of the team in 2021, Ballerini, Mørkøv, Cavendish. Now we also have Fedorov, Cees Bol and Aleksey Lutsenko who can maybe help.
“I’m very optimistic, I think it’s going to work.”
Cavendish in action at the 2021 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)
As well as taking on the role of head of performance, Anastopoulos explained that he will still work with some riders on a one to one basis which will almost definitely include all of the riders involved in Astana’s new-look leadout train including Cavendish.
“It’s a new challenge for me,” he added. “I’m really excited because my role is to make sure that every single rider performs in the best possible way, and has the best possible preparation towards each of the races that we do as a team. I think I’ll have eight to ten riders that I will coach personally.”
“Our targets are to continue working in a similar way that I used to work with the WolfPack [Quick-Step],” he explained. “I want to bring this experience and the ideas from Quick-Step to Astana, as I think that the way that Quick-Step was working was really, really good for a team to perform.”
Ahead of next year’s shot at taking the Tour record, Cavendish will almost certainly come up against the likes of Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen who won the green jersey at this year’s race along with four individual stages.
Philipsen also narrowly beat the Manxman in Bordeaux when a late mechanical prevented him from winning.
Anastopoulos explained that an early season win over Philipsen to gain a psychological advantage wasn’t essential ahead of the bigger goal.
“I’m pretty sure that he’s going to win again”
Cavendish celebrates victory for Astana on the final day of the Giro d’Italia
(Image credit: Getty Images)
“I don’t think that it’s really important [to focus on one man] because it’s not only about Philipsen,” Anastopoulos said.
“There’s still Caleb Ewan, there’s Fabio Jakobsen who’s going to a new team [DSM] with a full leadout train for him, that’s my understanding anyway. So I don’t think we should focus on one guy, I think the focus will be and should be on Mark himself.
“If he arrives there in the best possible condition, then I’m pretty sure that he’s going to win again, as he did in the past.
“We need to do our homework. We need to have our train function in the best possible way. Everybody needs to be at the top of the game. You know, based on his physical preparation, and then I think the result will come.”