Mark Cavendish could be racing in the blue of Astana-Qazaqstan next season, if preliminary reports are to be believed.
The legendary Tour de France sprinter has been linked heavily with Astana since they terminated their contract with Miguel Ángel López on Tuesday, freeing up space on the team and funding to sign him.
Late last night, Italian journalist Ciro Scognamiglio wrote “After a talk with a cyclist agent, we understand that Mark Cavendish and Astana seem close to find an agreement for 2023" for Gazzetta dello Sport.
This is the latest twist in the Cavendish saga that saw frontrunners B&B Hotels go under, tanking an almost done-deal to sign the sprint ace.
Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov has been speaking to Cavendish. When B&B folded, “I thought about Mark right away,” he told Cycling News.
“I gave him a phone call saying if he was free then we could talk. It’s true he’s what, 35 or 36, but what really matters is if he’s motivated. I won the Olympic Games when I was nearing 40," said Vinokourov.
Over the last two seasons, Cavendish proved his desire to win was still burning brightly, winning four stages of the Tour de France, one of Giro d'Italia, the Italian classic Milan-Torino and a handful of other victories.
But he'd be the first to admit that those four Tour de France victories in 2021 were in part due to an excellent lead out train, headed by Michael Mørkøv.
Astana have no such expertise. Indeed, Vinokourov himself said "Astana have never had a really big sprinter. We've always focused on the stage races, not so much at that."
But what Astana do have is guaranteed participation in the Tour de France, and, presuming Cavendish is fit and firing, they could give him a chance at beating the Merckx all time stage record, something Vinokourov has acknowledged.
And what team would want to miss out on any possible association with that fairy tale ending.
Ag2r-Citroën and TotalEnergies are the only other teams who could offer Cavendish this.
Should Astana sign Cav, they could of course sign more riders without a contract like Cees Bol, but it is getting late in the transfer window to do so.
No doubt there will be more twists to come in the Cavendish story, but for now it is Astana who look most likely to write the ending.
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