The day after Mark Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France while chasing a historic 35th stage win, Astana Qazaqstan team manager Alexandre Vinokourov has floated the idea of a contract extension through the 2024 Tour de France.
Cavendish, 38, announced his plans to retire from the sport at the Giro d’Italia in May, bringing to a close a prolific career including 161 career victories. 34 of those came at the Tour de France, equalling the record of Eddy Merckx. Having missed selection for the race last year, Cavendish secured a last-minute one-year contract with Astana-Qazaqstan, heading into the race with a very specific goal – one more win at the Tour. On the road to Limoges on stage 8, however, Cavendish was brought down in an innocuous crash, breaking his collarbone and leaving the race in the back of a medical van.
Late last night, Alexandre Vinokourov told l’Equipe that “we want Mark to continue in 2024 and be able to ride his 15th Tour de France to win his 35th stage.” Vinokourov likened Cavendish’s situation to the conclusion of his own career: “I myself suffered a fractured femur in 2011 on the Tour, which was to be my last year. But I didn’t want to stop like that. I extended and fought to win the Olympic Games in London the following year,” Vinokourov said.
“Mark has the same mind, the same will to achieve his ultimate goal. We are ready to offer him this possibility, but it is he who will decide.”
Despite Astana-Qazaqstan’s – and Vinokourov’s – not particularly beloved position in the sport, Cavendish appears to have found relative peace in his time on the team. At this year’s Tour de France, Cavendish came close to a stage win heading into Bordeaux on stage 7, with an ill-timed mechanical problem leaving him in second place on the day behind Jasper Philipsen.
After being transferred to hospital a day later, Cavendish returned to the team hotel to say goodbye to his teammates at the race. Still wearing team kit, arm in a sling, he made his way around the room, hugging each rider in turn before leaving the race.
Whether that was for the last time or not, we shall see.
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