[Mark Cavendish to postpone retirement and ride on with Astana Qazaqstan, reports
Mark Cavendish has reached an agreement with Astana Qazaqstan boss Alexander Vinokourov to continue racing in the WorldTour for another year, according to reports.
Dutch media outlet AD, reported on Tuesday afternoon that a new deal is close between the legendary British sprinter and his current Astana team with the only current block being several rights agreements.
Earlier this summer Cavendish was within touching distance of becoming the record holder for the most stage wins at the Tour de France. The Manxman is currently tied on 34 with Eddy Merckx.
On stage seven of this year’s Tour, Cavendish finished second in Bordeaux to Belgian Jasper Philipsen. At the time the record breaking stage win appeared to be sewn up although mechanical issues with his bike prevented the 38-year-old from edging out the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider.
Later on in the race a heavy crash on stage eight meant that Cavendish was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone. The Manxman had announced at the Giro d’Italia in May that his career would come to a close at the end of the current season meaning that it appeared the Tour record would remain out of reach.
However, in the aftermath of Cavendish’s withdrawal from the race Astana boss Vinokourov told L’Equipe that he would like to see Cavendish continue racing in 2024.
“Yes, we’d like Mark to continue in 2024 and race his 15th Tour de France to win that 35th stage,” Vinokourov said. “I myself broke my femur in 2011 in the Tour, and that should have been my last year. But I didn’t want to end my career like that.”
“I kept going and I worked hard to the point where I could win at the Olympic Games in London the following year. Mark has the same mentality, the same willpower to achieve his final goal. We’re ready to offer him that chance. But it’s up to him to decide.”
It now appears that Vinokourov is likely to get his wish with one source telling AD that without cycling Cavendish would be “lost in space.”
Cycling Weekly approached Astana Qazaqstan for comment regarding Cavendish’s contract situation and a possible extension but the team declined to comment.
It’s expected that Cavendish will make his return to racing at the Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye next month.
Meanwhile, Danish rider Michael Mørkøv has confirmed that he will leave Soudal Quick-Step at the end of the 2023 season. The 38-year-old has been heavily linked with Astana which could potentially reunite him with Cavendish as Astana look to strengthen their leadout train.
Speaking to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Mørkøv said: “I know who I’m going to ride for. It won’t be Soudal-QuickStep.”
“It’s a possibility. A good possibility,” he added when discussing the Astana links. “It hasn’t been decided yet, so I can’t answer that.”
Mørkøv has long been considered one of the best lead out men in the pro peloton and enjoyed a hugely successful spell alongside Cavendish at Quick-Step. The duo raced together at the Belgian team in both 2021 and 2022, with Mørkøv helping Cavendish win four stages and the green points jersey at the Tour de France in 2021.
Astana have already strengthened their sprint department in recent weeks with the acquisition of Italian fast man Davide Ballerini from Quick-Step.
Dutch rider Ide Schelling will also join the team from Bora-Hansgrohe from next year to further strengthen the team’s firepower as they look to dominate the sprint stages in the French Grand Tour next July.