The Return (and Revival?) of Cav
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
"I missed it", this is the underlying feeling that jumps out from Mark Cavendish's first few interviews upon returning to the Deceuninck-Quickstep team. Whilst the greatest sprinter of all time has enjoyed success since leaving the team, notably at the 2016 Tour de France, it has always felt to us and to Mark that he had left a place he called home. It is for this reason that it brings a massive smile to my face when watching him train in that cracking new Quickstep kit, donned with the ever-present rainbow bands in honour of his 2011 World Championship victory, Britain's first and only winner since Tom Simpson in 1965. He seems genuinely delighted to be racing with the team once more, no doubt mixed with relief at retaining a World Tour contract. To see him out on rides with Julian Alaphilippe is a combination that I never knew I wanted, but I now can't get enough of.
2021 will be an interesting and perhaps career-defining season for Cavendish, defining in terms of his send-off from the sport anyway. Like most British fans, I was gutted to see his move to Bahrain McLaren fail to inspire last year, almost certainly hindered by the COVID-19 impact on the WorldTour calendar, leaving him short of race days in the saddle. Of course we all quietly wish for Mark to equal Eddy Merckx's unbreakable (or so we think...) record of 34 Tour de France stage wins, but we are also realistic and recognise that he hasn't managed to cross the finish line first since 2018. In years hampered by Epstein-Barr virus, we still don't know the true form of Cavendish and whether he can still perform in the sprint finishes at the age of 35. But if I could have one dream come true for this road season, it would be for Cavendish to win one more race, whether that be at the UAE Tour or on the Champs-Elysees. To see one of Britain's greatest riders seal victory once more in the swansong of his career, it would be magical. Were it not to be an individual victory though, it is incredibly exciting as to how 'Cav' can help the preeminent sprinter of the current field and now-teammate, Sam Bennett. With his unmatched experience of winning bunch sprints, it is intriguing as to what role Cavendish can play in the lead-out train for Bennett. If this tandem can strike off a great relationship in the early months of the season, perhaps we may even see Cavendish riding this year's Tour de France as part of Bennett's train. And once at the Grand Boucle, who knows what opportunities may turn in Cavendish's favour...
"I just want to enjoy it"- Mark Cavendish.