Mark Cavendish, the renowned cyclist from Astana Qazaqstan, is set to make a triumphant return to competitive cycling, marking the end of a two-month hiatus following his unfortunate crash during the 2023 Tour de France. The crash forced him to abandon his quest for an unprecedented 35th stage victory.
Cycling enthusiasts and fans worldwide are eagerly anticipating his comeback at the upcoming Tour of Turkey, scheduled for October 8th to 15th, 2023. Cavendish has fond memories of Turkey, having clinched victory there in 2021 after a three-year dry spell.
This win came just before he equaled Eddy Merckx's stage win record at the Tour de France for that year by securing four stage wins. Furthermore, Cavendish shares the stage win record at the Tour of Turkey with the now-retired sprinting legend Andre Greipel, with both athletes boasting an impressive 11 victories each.
The 2023 Tour of Turkey underwent a rescheduling, moving from its usual April slot to October due to a devastating earthquake that struck both Turkey and neighboring Syria in February. This unfortunate event also led to the cancellation of the Tour of Antalya.
Race organizers officially confirmed Cavendish's return through their Instagram account back in August. Joining him on the starting line are other top-tier sprinters like Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck and Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe.
Cavendish's Road to Recovery
Cavendish's journey to recovery was a challenging one, with a broken collarbone sustained during stage 8 of the Tour de France necessitating surgery. This setback kept him off the road for an extended period, as previous injuries compounded the length of his rehabilitation.
However, the resilient sprinter is now back on the road, gradually regaining his form. Notably, Cavendish recently made headlines as he was spotted training alongside his former teammate, the four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome of Israel-Premier Tech, as well as Cameron Wurf of Ineos Grenadiers.
These training sessions have fueled speculation about Cavendish's future in professional cycling, as the question of his potential retirement remains unanswered. Cavendish had initially declared the 2023 season as his swan song during the Giro d'Italia, but the disappointment of the Tour de France has sparked conjecture about a possible extension of his career with Astana Qazaqstan.
The team has expressed a strong desire to secure Cavendish for the 2024 season, with team manager Alexander Vinokourov leading the charge in the pursuit of a record-breaking 35th stage victory at the Tour de France. However, the cyclist himself has remained tight-lipped about his intentions.
Astana Qazaqstan has bolstered its roster in a bid to persuade Cavendish to stay on for another year. The team has added talents like Ide Schelling from Bora-Hansgrohe, Max Kanter from Movistar, and Davide Ballerini from Soudal-QuickStep—a member of Cavendish's stellar 2021 Tour de France leadout train.
This strategic move aims to provide Cavendish with a stronger leadout train for potential future sprints, enhancing his chances of achieving further success in the professional cycling world. In 2023, Cavendish faced challenges in sprints, often relying on Cees Bol to navigate him through rival teams' formations at the Tour de France, rather than enjoying a dedicated leadout.
With the addition of Schelling, Kanter, and Ballerini, Astana Qazaqstan aspires to offer Cavendish a more robust support system, should he opt to continue competing at the highest level of the sport for another season.