Sprint ace Mark Cavendish may quit cycling after crowning his career with a record of Tour de France stage wins, according to team boss Patrick Lefevere.
Cavendish himself credits Lefevere with relaunching his career after finding himself without a team in December due to a sterile three-year period and at the age of 36.
Seven months later, with two group sprint wins in the 2021 edition of the Tour, Lefevere says Cavendish might do well to think twice before extending his contract for another year.
“We went to dinner in June and Mark told me he would like to extend his contract for another year,” Deceuninck boss Quick-Step Lefevere revealed after his runner took his Tour tally to 32 wins. stage, two behind the all-time record holder Eddy Merckx.
“But after his victories, the scenario is completely different,” he said.
There are three more flat stages this week and two in the final section that may be enough to give Cavendish the record.
“Imagine for a moment the dream scenario that wins the green jersey (sprint points) on the Champs Elysees. Imagine that he wins his 35th stage on the Champs Elysee”.
“Well, maybe he’d say ‘that’s it, it’s all over for me boss.'”
“I wouldn’t stop him from leaving, then,” Lefevere said.
“Because I have seen some riders who have gone one year too far”.
“Mark has another option now. He can come out high and the choice is his,” said the Belgian.
– Pride of survival in the mountains –
On Monday, Lefevere greeted his sprinter again.
“Mark was perhaps a surprise, but he showed that a driver can always perform if he is in a good mood and a good team.
“He made a lot of effort, it was no coincidence that he won”.
What Cavendish did was survive the cut-off and give himself the chance to win more stages of this Tour de France on a day when other sprinters missed the cut-off time and were disqualified from continuing.
Cavendish believes his climb to the top of the Tignes track may have been the greatest triumph of his brilliant career.
He cried at the finish as one of the last men to cross the line before the red cards began approximately 37 minutes after winner Ben O’Connor.
“Having three teammates stay with me in the small group (laggards group) for a horrendous stage was incredible,” Cavendish said with conviction.
“If we stop now, it will be one of the best Tour de France stages I’ve ever had,” Cavendish said on Monday of the challenging climb to Tignes ski resort on icy stage nine.
“I am so humiliated and physically destroyed,” said Cavendish, who retained the green jersey as the best sprinter.
“This is the only stage I was afraid of.”
There are likely sprint finals on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays where Cavendish faces even less competition than the first week, with several sprinters, including Groupama’s Arnaud Demare, among the victims of the Sunday cut.
dmc / cdw / bsp