Record-chasing Mark Cavendish extends career by joining Astana

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BRUSSELS — Veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish might still get a chance to claim the outright record for stage wins at the Tour de France.

Cavendish has joined Astana-Qazaqstan to extend his storied career by one season and will be hoping to ride for the Kazakh team at cycling’s biggest race in July. The 37-year-old British road champion and cycling great Eddy Merckx currently top the all-time list with 34 stage wins.

“The joy of riding my bike and the hunger to continue winning are as bright as ever,” Cavendish said in a statement provided by Astana on Tuesday. “As always, the objective will be for us to stand on the top podium.”

Cavendish equaled Merckx’s record at the 2021 Tour de France, 13 years after his first stage win. Cavendish – who has never won the Tour, unlike five-time champion Merckx – was not selected for last year’s edition by his former Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.

Astana is managed by former Olympic road champion Alexander Vinokourov. Adding a big name like Cavendish’s to its roster is a welcome move for the team following the retirement of Vincenzo Nibali, and the firing in December of Miguel Angel Lopez for his alleged links with a doctor suspected of drug trafficking.

“He is the best sprinter of all time,” Vinokourov said about Cavendish. “The arrival of a top sprinter in our team is kind of a challenge for us, but we are ready for it. The goals however are still the same – victories in any kind of race: classics, stages in different stage races and, of course, in the Grand Tours. Mark still has a big desire to win.”

Known as “The Manx Missile” because he comes from the Isle of Man, Cavendish also won the Tour de France best sprinter’s green jersey twice. He has won stages at all three Grands Tours – Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta – and became a world champion in 2011.

Vinokourov won the 2006 Spanish Vuelta and four individual stages at the Tour de France between 2003-10. He was banned for two years after testing positive for blood doping at the 2007 Tour but came back to win the men’s road race at the 2012 London Olympics. He started his managerial career after retiring that year.

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