On the final rest day of the Giro d'Italia 2023, Britain's Mark Cavendish announced that he had taken the decision to make the 2023 season his last as a professional cyclist. One day after his 38th birthday, the sprinter from the Isle of Man said that it was the 'perfect time' to step away from racing.
2023 marks Cavendish's 18th year at the highest level of cycling, a career that has seen him ride for six different professional teams - he's currently with Astana-Qazaqstan - including the same outfit on two separate occasions. He is far and away the "winningest" rider still going, with his 161 career victories putting him level with Mario Cipollini in third, and one behind Rik van Looy in second.
Cavenedish's announcement means that he certainly won't overtake Eddy Merckx's astonishing record of 275 career wins, he could still beat The Cannibal's Tour de France stage win this summer. Effectively, that is the reason he has ridden on into one more season.
Not many riders stay at the top level for so long; people Cavendish's age who are still riding have not been as consistent or managed to win throughout their career, just look at Geraint Thomas or Chris Froome. Therefore, we thought it was worth a special dive into the archives to see the Manx Missile through the ages.
Cavendish signed for German behemoths T-Mobile in 2006 as a trainee, before he joined full-time in 2007. It didn't take long until he was winning, taking his first professional victory at Scheldeprijs in April 2007, winning in front of Robbie McEwen and Gert Steegmans.
Just to give you an idea of just how long he has been riding for, other members of the 2007 T-Mobile team included Axel Merckx and Servais Knaven.
2008: Team Columbia
A 22-year-old Cavendish, languidly posing against the boot of a normal-looking car, feels very late noughties. He was not to know how his career was about to take off.
Technically the same team, because the licence transferred from Deutsche Telekom to Columbia, but a new start for the Bob Stapleton outfit.
Cavendish picked up where he left off in 2008, winning 17 times across the year, including four Tour de France stages, which took him from promising young sprinter to future star of the sport.
If you're the best team in the world, and you have the world's best sprinter at your disposal, why not pose for photos next to a swimming pool? Let's not think about how difficult it must have been to walk around the pool in cleats.
2009 was Cavendish's best year yet, with victory at Milan-San Remo, his only Monument victory, coming in March. There were also six (6!) stage wins at the Tour de France.
Another two years of constant winning followed at the Bob Stapleton Highroad team before it was forced to close at the end of 2011.
Just the ten Tour stages were collected across 2010 and 2011, plus some other baubles, like the World Championship road race in Copenhagen. Not bad.
These were the Cavendish glory years, the seasons where the sprinter could just not stop winning, and it never seemed like it would end.
2012: Team Sky
Here we have Cavendish inspecting his shoes ahead of his first and only season with Team Sky. Look at the big man, with his red Shimano cleats - no float for him!
The matchup between the world champion and Sky made perfect sense, the biggest British name at the British team, who was free after the demise of Highroad.
However, it only lasted one season as Sky prioritised their general classification ambitions over stage wins, although three Giro and three Tour stage wins would make an excellent year for anyone else.
2013 - Omega Pharma Quick-Step
Here a youthful-looking Cavendish caresses a bit of Quick-Step flooring, to mark his move to the Belgian super team.
He hit the parquet running for the Patrick Lefevere outfit, winning at the first opportunity he had, at the Tour de San Luis, and would go on to win 19 times in 2013.
That year's Tour de France saw the start of his titanic sprint battle with Marcel Kittel, which some would argue the German won, but Cavendish is still going... Five Giro stage wins and two at the Tour cannot be sniffed at.
2014 - Omega Pharma Quick-Step
Another year at Quick-Step, another very Belgian photoshoot. I think this is to promote floors again, but equally could be mops. Tom Boonen and Zdeněk Štybar look delighted to be involved.
2014 was a fallow year for Cavendish, which was dominated by a stage one crash at the Tour de France which ruled him out of his biggest objective.
2015 - Etixx Quick-Step
One of the best team photoshoot images, this Quick-Step team bonding session in 2015 was to promote Latexco pillows, I think. Or to give everyone a good rest, it's difficult to say.
At the Tour, it was the André Greipel year, as the German sprinter won four stages to Cavendish's one, part of 14 victories that year.
2016 - Team Dimension Data
2016 saw a revolution as Cavendish moved from Quick-Step to Dimension Data, which was seen as a bit of a gamble at the time.
However, he won four stages at the Tour, bouncing back to his best; it was the most stage wins he'd claimed in one edition since 2011, paying the African team back on their investment.
Sadly, Dimension Data didn't do the same kind of funky photos that Quick-Step dealt in, meaning the best you get is this photo of him being driven to the start of the 2016 Tour in a US Army jeep, for some D-Day related reason. Obviously.
The next three seasons saw just two wins for Cavendish, in years where he was impacted by illness and injury, and some thought his career might be fizzling out.
2020 - Bahrain-McLaren
The British sprinter was thrown a lifeline by his old coach Rod Ellingworth for 2020, who brought him onboard at the new Bahrain-McLaren project.
However, with the pandemic ruining everyone's plans, it was a slow year for Cavendish, with barely a top-15 finish to speak of.
Come October and a rearranged De Panne, it seemed like it might be the end...
2021 - Deceuninck Quick-Step
Here's Mark Cavendish with his bananas, showing that 2020 was not the end, and there would be at least one more chapter to go.
The bananas were for winning a stage of the Tour of Turkey, something he did four times in 2021, but better things were to come. Fortune swung his way as teammate Sam Bennett was ruled out of the Tour de France, allowing space for the Manxman.
It meant he was there to storm to four stage wins in one of his best years, leaving him tied with Eddy Mercxk for the Tour stage win record. 34 is quite the achievement.
2022 saw Cavendish win five times, including a stage of the Giro, but he did not make the Tour team.
That snub incentivised the sprinter to go for one more year, leading to him signing for Astana. 2023 could be big.
Tour de France stage win number 35, Mark Cavendish is coming for you
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