Mark Cavendish on Tour de France hype: ‘Everyone is talking about 35 now’

In a wide-ranging interview, Cavendish reveals new details about his arrival to Astana-Qazaqstan.

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

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Mark Cavendish insists he’s pushing on with his career not in a quest to set the all-time victory mark at the Tour de France, but rather for his passion for racing.

In an interview in The Sunday Times, Cavendish said it’s not the pursuit of records that drives him, but rather the joy of racing and winning.

“I have won 34 Tour stages. Everyone is talking about 35 now,” Cavendish told The Sunday Times. “Talking about objectives not achievements. But I won 161 races. I have the record. It’s always and still referred to as the Eddy Merckx record but if it were about setting a number I could stop now. I hold the most wins at the Tour de France.

“The goal is winning. Not one particular win, it’s winning,” Cavendish said. “The Tour de France is what I’ve always set my career around, and from outside I’m well aware [what people will say].

“We are at that point I can stand alone [from Merckx]. Another win at the Tour is everything to people but, for me, it’s not one win, it’s two or three, whatever I can do.”

Even if he doesn’t want to talk about it, almost everyone else is. Cavendish is tied with Eddy Merckx with 34 stage wins in the Tour de France.

Whether or not Cavendish wins one more will be one of the major talking points of 2023.

Cavendish on Astana deal: ‘I love racing’

In a long-ranging interview just days ahead of his season debut at the Tour of Oman, Cavendish revealed new details of his surprising arrival to Astana-Qazaqstan to join team boss Alexandr Vinokourov.

“Vino rang and said, ‘What do you think? I won’t be able to pay you what B&B would but come here, there’s no pressure,'” Cavendish said.

“We talked about the benefits but also what happens if I’m not successful, how it goes the other way, and he just said, ‘It doesn’t matter. If we don’t win, we don’t win, but we go on trying.’ Nobody had spoken to me like that in a long time, a really long time.”

Cavendish admitted he was left out to dry when a deal to join B&B Hotels fell through over the winter.

“I had committed to B&B [Hotels] back in July. Jérôme Pineau was involved [as general manager] and I knew that he was putting his life and soul into making it work but there came a point when, from the beginning of December, you should be training properly for the next year and when you don’t know where you are, that’s when you start to get a bit nervous,” he said. “Is this going to happen? I was one of the lucky ones. Fortunately, I had other options.”

Cavendish is hoping to end his career on his terms. At 37, he’s not sure how much longer he will race.

“For me, it is quite simple. I can continue riding my bike, I can continue winning, so why not do it? I love it,” he said. “I love racing. It’s changed. The racing is not as enjoyable but I still love it.”

Cavendish said he’s found a surprisingly happy welcome so far at Astana-Qazaqstan, a team more renowned for its stage hunters and GC riders.

“I feel I’ve been jumping through hoops for years. First, the Dimension Data years when it was the team’s fault I was sick but I got thrown under the bus for it. That hurt,” he said. “Bahrain, even Quick-Step, I couldn’t prepare, set a target. This is the first time I can set a goal and work towards it rather than feel I have to prove myself just to get the opportunity.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.