The End of an Era: Mark Cavendish Is Retiring

106th giro d'italia 2023 stage 14
Mark Cavendish Is Retiring at the End of This SeasStuart Franklin - Getty Images

According to a report by Italian news outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Manx Missile will make his announcement Monday, during the Giro d’Italia’s final rest day, one day after his thirty-eighth birthday. (Happy birthday, Cav!)

Like almost every other superstar, Cav has had a bit of a rough Giro, most notably sliding across stage five’s finish line on his butt. He’s still searching for stage wins, losing out by a matter of inches to Jonathan Milan and Pascal Ackermann on stage eleven. Though with the Dolomites looming in the Giro’s final week, it’s hard to picture Cavendish finding a stage win in Italy.

Which brings to mind the question that everyone’s thinking with Cav’s pending announcement: will he break the deadlock he has with Eddy Merckx?

Tying with a legend

Cavendish enjoyed a renaissance at the 2021 Tour, winning four stages to bring his grand total of Tour de France stage wins to 34, tying Merckx for the most ever in the process.

He came within a few feet of winning a thirty-fifth stage on the Champs-Élysées but was boxed in by eventual stage winner Wout van Aert, leaving too little time to make a record-breaking move.

It would have been a fairytale ending for the legendary sprinter. Alas, it would have to wait until 2022, where Cav would undoubtedly defend his green jersey. Or so we thought.

Just days before the start of last year’s Tour, Cavendish’s Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team announced its roster. Cav’s name was conspicuously absent.

Team boss Patrick Lefevere sent the team’s other sprinter, Fabio Jakobsen, instead. Jakobsen won the second stage, giving Lefevere ammo to snap back at his many critics. Still, it was a hard move to defend, considering the history-making potential combined with the form Cav was on at the time.

A few weeks later, it was announced that Cavendish was leaving Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl. He signed with the doomed B&B Hotels-KTM team, who folded in December, and for a few moments, it was thought he may not even have a team come Tour time. Then, early this year, Cavendish announced he was signing a one-year deal with Astana Qazaqstan.

Cav’s Giro d’Itlaia so far

It was easy to point at Cavendish and his new team during the earliest stages of the Giro, especially after the inauspicious spring they enjoyed together, presuming it was perhaps a bad fit.

But as the Corsa Rosa trudges along, the only thing that’s certain is that the normal rules of Grand Tour racing don’t apply to this year’s Giro.

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Stuart Franklin - Getty Images

Cavendish’s team hit their stride in stage five, finally seeming to figure out how to put the sprinter in place to fight for a win. That formula was repeated in stage ten, where Cav finished eighth, and again in stage eleven, where he finished third.

Whether they can sort out that formula in July remains to be seen. But the eyes of the bike racing world will certainly be on Mark Cavendish, who, after this announcement, now has a very precise number of chances to break a record that was previously thought unbreakable.

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