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At 37 and with a new World Tour contract freshly signed with Astana, Mark Cavendish is clear “the goal is to win” as he embarks on what is likely to be his last season.
The British sprinter makes his 2023 debut on Saturday at the Tour of Oman where he will aim for the win as usual and nothing less.
“The goal is to win not just any particular race, just to win,” the man with 161 victories to his name told The Times.
The Isle of Man rider has endured a particularly hectic few months.
Out of contract at the Quick-Step team, he agreed to join B&B Hotels but then watched in frustration as they folded when sponsorship deals fell through.
After weeks of tension and confusion he landed a one-year deal at the Kazakh team Astana, where his former team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov is now manager.
– Threatened at knifepoint –
Cavendish also had to deal with some traumatic personal experiences.
Last week two men were sentenced to 12 and 15 years in prison for having robbed his home in 2021, threatening him and his family at knifepoint.
His wife Peta, pregnant at the time, explained in court that the episode had “transformed a warm home into a constant reminder of fear and threats”.
Cavendish’s life in and out of cycling will be portrayed in an upcoming Netflix documentary.
He has been through the lows of depression and the deeply wearing Epstein-Barr virus. But amongst the highs are a world title, a Monument race at Milan-San Remo and an Olympic silver medal.
For 2023 Cavendish has one last tilt at the overall record for Tour de France stage wins of 34 he jointly holds with Eddy Merckx.
“I’ve built my career around the Tour de France and here I am at a point where I can have the record all to myself. People only think of another victory on the Tour. Me, it’s not a victory that I’m aiming for, but two, three or more,” he said.
There would appear to be eight chances of a sprint finish at the 2023 Tour, also giving him a crack at winning another green jersey.
Astana boss Vinokourov called Cavendish the “best all-time sprinter” when he joined and many would agree with him.
“We talked about success but also about what would happen if things went less well. He just said to me ‘if we don’t win, we don’t win, but we will try’. It’s been a long time since someone spoke to me like that.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to set myself a goal and prepare for it, rather than having to prove myself first.
“Here, I feel respected for what I have accomplished, what I still have to accomplish and simply as a person.”