Mark Cavendish is full of confidence as he looks ahead to the 2022 season, claiming that he is on an upward trajectory and backs his ability to win more races next year.
Despite suffering a collapsed lung and broken ribs from a heavy crash at the Six Days of Ghent last month, and then being involved in a traumatic experience whereby armed robbers broke into his house and threatened his family while still recovering, the Manxman retains optimism that he will continue his fine form from 2021.
Cavendish won his first race in three years at the Tour de France in a brilliant comeback performance, before securing three more stage wins on the way to the green jersey - a decade after he first won the accolade - and equalling Eddy Merckx's all-time record of 34 stage wins at the Tour.
Speaking to The Big Issue, Cavendish said that he expects strong performances next season, regardless of the injury he is still recovering from.
He said: "Obviously this [injury] isn’t ideal, but I still think I’m going to win next year. What I win, I don’t know, but I’m pretty confident, otherwise I’d have just stopped. It’d have been a good year to stop, to come back and just do it. But I know I’m still on an upward trajectory. And I still love it."
When asked if his victories felt different in 2021 compared to years when he was expected to win, Cavendish explained expectation is something he can't control and therefore meant his wins were perhaps a bigger deal for other people than for himself.
He said: "Sportspeople have pressure. That’s part and parcel of it. But there’s a massive difference between pressure and expectation. You can control pressure. Pressure is something that other people put on you but ultimately it’s you who deals with how much of that you want to use.
"Whereas expectation is something that’s completely out of your control. That’s somebody else’s thought process. I was always expected to win and that’s why if I didn’t win, I failed.
"I was surprised [when I started winning again]. But it wasn’t disbelief, if that makes sense. I knew the work I’d put into it. Still, it hadn’t happened for so long the emotions were there."
Coming into the year, Cavendish hadn't won since 2018 and had just endured a tough season at Team Bahrain Mclaren. Struggling to secure a contract for the season, reports emerged that Cavendish was considering retirement. Fortunately, though, Deceuninck - Quick-Step offered him a lifeline, where he will stay for another season after signing a one-year contract extension.
Arriving at his new team, he wanted to eliminate the excuses he had built up with previous employers and try to rediscover the form that resulted in points classifications wins at all three Grand Tours.
Cavendish described this in the interview: "My hope was to be able to ride for this team, trying to scramble everything together. I wasn’t performing. From my perspective, I couldn’t perform properly. I had too many excuses.
"My bike didn’t fit me – that’s out of my control. A team that I don’t gel with – that’s part me, but it’s still an excuse.
"If I could come to this team and eliminate those excuses, it’s only down to me. And I knew if I could do what I can do, I knew I’d be successful."
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