At 38 in search of a team between France and Spain: the goal is to win the record-breaking stage of the Tour
Just take a photograph and understand how sensitive Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man, a former bank employee and dancer, is sensitive to the myth. Two Lambrettas and a vintage Vespa are always available to him in Quarrata, in the province of Pistoia, where his close friend Max Sciandri welcomed him as a young boy. When he can, Mark goes for a ride. He knows the Tuscan roads by heart. He is twenty when he lands in the British cycling academy that Dave Brailsford entrusts to Sciandri. And the former professional transforms the ground floor of the house, 150 square meters, into the guest quarters of Cavendish and Thomas, Froome and Stannard: instead of the laundry, six showers. The British miracle was born here, where now a jasmine has taken the place of the pole on which the British flag flew.
Cavendish is now 37 and a half years old: with 161 victories, no one in business beats him. He won the World Cup and Sanremo, he wore the pink and yellow shirts. But there is a number that spins in his head like an obsession, a sweet mission to achieve before devoting himself to his four children (the last one was born a month ago). The number is 34, that is, the stages won in the Tour de France.
A record he shares with Eddy Merckx: in modern cycling, it seems to be the only one of the many records of the Cannibal that can be beaten. Not the 525 victories, nor the 5 laps or the 5 tours, nor the 7 Sanremo. Cannonball equaled the record of 34 stages on 9 July 2021 in Carcassonne, the marvelous medieval city at the foot of the Pyrenees. Quick Step didn’t call him for the 2022 Tour, Jakobsen was preferred, but that number is in his head. It would be a record that would last for decades: Merckx has been for 48 years!
There is one though: Cavendish is without a team, after two seasons with the Belgian group from Lefevere. And at 38 he has no time to waste. He absolutely has to choose a team that has the certainty of racing the Tour. So either the team will be part of the WorldTour, or it will be French in the Professional category with the certainty of being invited. The first choice is precisely the latter hypothesis: the French group of Jerome Pineau, former B&B Hotels (Professional), where Luca Mozzato runs. In July it was announced that the project would be called Ville de Paris, with the involvement of the capital in view of the 2024 Olympics and a social project to strengthen the use of bicycles. On the shirt, the inscription Paris Cycling: Swiss Bmc bicycles. There is great enthusiasm: Cavendish is also present at the rally from 10 to 12 October, with him the new Sinkeldam and Schultz, we also talk about Max Richeze, the budget is high. Then when the UCI list arrives with the teams that have applied for a license, the French team is not there. Concern and uncertainty, even if everything seems to be linked to the corporate adjustment for the new sponsors.
But Cavendish wants to see clearly. And so the second hypothesis appears on the horizon, much more romantic: that of the Spanish Movistar, where his friend Sciandri has just renewed from ds. Max has wanted it for two years already, he values it very much and knows that that number, 35, is a formidable motivation for Mark. The “train”: Aranburu, Erviti and Garcia Cortina last man. Fernando Gaviria, already Cavendish’s teammate in 2015, joined the team, but there are so many appointments that coexistence is not a problem. Come on Mark.
November 1 – 08:28
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