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VICTOR HARBOR, Australia (VN) — Mark Cavendish will see the support of a full leadout train in his quest to make Tour de France history this summer, Astana-Qazaqstan officials confirmed to VeloNews.
Cavendish — who joins Astana-Qazaqstan on a high-profile one-year deal — will debut in team colors at the Tour of Oman and the UAE Tour next month.
“It’s an honor to have a rider like Mark join our team,” Astana-Qazaqstan sport director Stefano Zanini told VeloNews. “The team will create a leadout train to support Mark. It’s a new challenge for this team but we are committed to doing it.”
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The Kazakh-backed team doesn’t have much history with sprinters, but Zanini said Cavendish’s arrival will change that.
Cavendish and Cees Bol, also confirmed this week for 2023, will see the team pivot to sprints in key races on the calendar.
“Mark is motivated, and he will raise the level of everyone, from the riders and the staff,” Zanini said. “We can bring the riders to support him. Everyone believes Mark will be winning a lot of races.”
Zanini: ‘We have the riders to build a nice train for Mark’
Zanini said the team will also lean on some of the team’s experienced veterans to slot into new roles as part of a fresh leadout train.
Riders such as Martin Laas, Davide Martinelli, and U23 world champion Yevgeniy Fedorov can help Bol and Cavendish in the sprints, the ex-pro said.
“We want to give the best possible support to allow him to do things as he always has. It’s an important for us to build a train for him in order to take on the races in the best possible way,” Zanini said.
“We have a good group of riders who can help him. It’s normal that it might cost us a bit of time to find the right feeling in the races.
“This team has the history of racing in the grand tours. Things are like that right now, but everyone is very, very motivated to have a big champion like him,” Zanini said. “The train will come together and we believe we can deliver Cavendish to the line.”
— Astana Qazaqstan Team (@AstanaQazTeam) January 18, 2023
An exact order or who might be the final setup rider remains undetermined, but Bol is expected to play a key role.
“The early races will be important for the team to be able to work with Mark and create the feeling of a train,” Zanini said. “It will not be easy, but by later in the season, Mark will seeing the support he needs.”
Cavendish was confirmed this week to join Astana-Qazaqstan after being spotted at the team camp during the past few weeks.
Cavendish is equal with Eddy Merckx with 34 wins, and will need only one more victory in the 2023 Tour to set a new stage-win mark.
After Oman and the UAE Tour, Cavendish will likely race the Italian calendar across March into perhaps a few classics. The final approach to the Tour will be sketched out, but Zanini confirmed that the Tour is the central goal for 2023.
“We will see about his calendar, but I am sure he will be doing the Tour de France,” he said. “That’s the idea, and the big objective will be at the Tour this year.
“It’s never easy to win a stage at the Tour. The race is always hard at any Tour. But I believe if we do the work and we support him, I think it’s possible to win races with Mark,” Zanini said.
“The level of is very high right now in the peloton for the sprints. There are other teams that have a committed train, so it’s important for us to work together and build out this project.
“Mark’s level is very good. He was working hard in Calpe,” Zanini said. “Mark is motivated to race. Let’s see what happens. It’s exciting for everyone. His palmarès are among the best in the world.”