Mark Cavendish has announced he will retire at the end of the 2023 season. The 38-year-old has enjoyed a prosperous career, matching Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, winning the points classification in all three Grand Tours, Milan-San Remo and the Road Race World Championships. He’ll retire as one of the greatest cyclists to ever grace the sport, and the greatest sprinter of all time.
Speaking in his press conference during the second rest day of the Giro d’Italia, Cavendish said, ‘Cycling has been my life for over 25 years. It’s taught me so much about life, dedication, loyalty, sacrifice and perseverance – all important things to pass on now as a father. Today it’s my son Casper’s fifth birthday; it’s a rest day and I can spend that with them. Now it’s important to be there for every birthday, every school concert.’
Cavendish will undoubtably be eyeing the upcoming Tour de France as his swansong. One more stage win will take his tally to 35 and above Eddy Merckx.
Early success to World Champion
Bradley Wiggins leads out teammate Mark Cavendish on the final stage of the 2012 Tour de France.Doug Pensinger/Getty Image
In 2009, Cavendish won Milan-San Remo on his debut after catching Cervélo TestTeam’s Heinrich Haussler. It was at the Tour de France that same year that Cavendish began to pick up speed with his phenomenal run of Tour de France victories. He won six stages and finished it off in style on the Champs-Élysées, bringing home a 1-2 for T-Mobile alongside lead-out extraordinaire Mark Renshaw. By 2010, his total had jumped to 15. In 2011, it surged to 20.
In September 2011, Cavendish’s Road Race World Championship title came on the streets of Copenhagen. His rainbow jersey would go on to feature in one of cycling’s most iconic images: yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins leading out World Champion Cavendish in Paris on the final stage of the 2012 Tour de France. No prises for guessing who won on the Champs-Élysées that year.His 23rd stage victory at the Tour surpassed André Darrigade and marked him as the most successful sprinter in the race’s history.
From Omega Pharma-QuickStep to Team Dimension Data
Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel at Scheldeprijs 2016.Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images
In 2013, Cavendish claimed his first British national road race title in Glasgow. Throughout this era, Cavendish competed against the likes of Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan for victories, an entertaining time for viewers albeit heavily charged with emotions, crashes and choice words – as documented in the Argos Shimano ‘Clean Spirit’ documentary.
Cavendish returned to the track in 2015 and, the following year, won a silver medal in the men’s omnium at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Battling the Epstein-Barr virus, tears at Gent-Wevelgem
Mark Cavendish stands alongside Eddy Merckx at the 2021 Tour de France.Anne-Chistine Poujoulat/AFP
As much as Cavendish will be remembered for his many, many victories, he will also be admired for the way in which he dealt with his depression and illness. On being diagnosed in 2017 with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever, the infection caused fatigue, impacting both his physical and mental health. He was diagnosed with depression that year.
He moved to Bahrain-Merida for the 2020 season and it was after the rescheduled Gent-Wevelgem that year that spectators witnessed a more vulnerable side to Cavendish. In tears, he said the race was ‘perhaps the last race of my career’. Deceuninck-QuickStep threw the rider a lifeline for the 2021 season though (with an extension to the end of 2022), taking Cavendish on with the UCI WorldTour minimum salary.
The stars had to align for Cavendish to make it to the Tour de France in 2021. An unfortunate training injury for Sam Bennett cleared a space for the sprinter, who would miraculously win four stages and tie Merckx’s record. A remarkable comeback. Will he break the record this year?
One thing is for sure. One of the greatest cyclists – and the greatest sprinter of all time – is retiring at the end of the 2023 season. We’ve witnessed his meteoric rise to the top of the sport, his battles with illness and depression, and a sporting comeback for the ages. From a hot-headed and aggressive young sprinter passionate for wins at any cost (I’m sure he won’t mind this assessment), to a more laid-back family man appreciating the final year of his great racing career.
Thank you for everything, Mark Cavendish.
Tags: Mark CavendishTour de France