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Veteran super sprinter Mark Cavendish is fearful that he may have ridden his last race.
Speaking to Belgian broadcaster Sporza after putting in a battling performance at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, the 35-year-old blurted out, “It was perhaps the last race of my career.”
With Cavendish battling to hold back the tears, the interviewer asked for confirmation, “Do you really think this is your last race?”
“Maybe yeh,” replied the Manxman before riding away, visibly distraught.
Uncertainty swirls over Cavendish’s future at Bahrain-McLaren. He is out of contract at the end of the season, and with the Bahraini outfit losing the backing of Britsh motorsport outfit McLaren in 2021, the team is still in the process of tying down rider contracts.
Recent reports suggest that Cavendish is likely to be extended through 2021, but the sprinter’s tears after a gritty day in Belgium suggest nothing is as yet certain. Likewise, Cavendish is slated to race Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, a race he has won three times, including in 2007, a victory that marked the biggest victory in his then-fledgling career.
Cavendish put in an aggressive performance at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, jumping into the early breakaway and hanging tough with the lead group when the move was caught in the final hours of racing. He finished 74th, six minutes down on race-winner Mads Pedersen.
The gutsy performance on the drizzly roads of north Belgium saw “The Manx Missile” finish well out of contention, but also showed him displaying the grit and graft that have made him one of the greatest sprinters of a generation.
While the recent years of Cavendish’s career have been shadowed by disappointment and illness, it can be all-too-easy to forget his unstoppable force and wiley racecraft when in his prime. Through his peak years with HTC-High Road and Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, Cavendish harvested a bumper trophy cabinet, including 30 stages at the Tour de France, 15 at the Giro d’Italia, a rainbow jersey in 2011, and victory at Milano-Sanremo.