'He's always strongest when people write him off': Dimension Data manager backs Mark Cavendish to return to top form

Rolf Aldag says Cavendish wouldn't attempt to come back from illness if he didn't believe he could reach the top of the sport again

Mark Cavendish at the 2016 Tour de France (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Mark Cavendish will stop racing if he cannot return to his top level, says his long-time director Rolf Aldag.

Team Dimension Data's performance manager explained that Cavendish returned riding 10 days ago, cleared of the Epstein-Barr virus. Now, the super sprinter must try to reach his top speed again.

"If he isn't competitive at the highest level, then I don't know what he's going to do," Aldag told Cycling Weekly.

>>> Mark Cavendish to stay with Dimension Data through 2019, according to reports

"He's not aiming to win a stage in the Four Days of Dunkirk or whatever, no disrespect to those races.

"He's motivated to come back to the highest level, to be competitive in the first sprints. I think that if he realises he can't be at that level, he could stop."

Cavendish counts 30 Tour de France stage wins, second only to Eddy Merckx with 34. He suffered through the 2018 Tour without winning a stage and was eliminated after missing the time cut in the Alps and last raced at the RideLondon-Surrey Classic. Since, he has been dealing with Epstein-Barr virus.

The good news is that Cavendish, 34 next May, is riding again. This weekend he was in the US to ride the gran fondo that former team-mate George Hincapie organises. His 2019 race programme remains unknown, but the focus as always will be on the Tour.

"He will make the decision himself, it'd never really come to that when the team would say, you're not selected [for the Tour roster]. He won 30 stages, I can't see him having a Tour de France like the one this year," Aldag said.

"Last year was different, he crashed and broke his shoulder, but I think he was competitive. 2018 was a complete disaster due to illness and sickness. He will be very clear, he is not going to make himself look like a fool."

Aldag said that recent blood tests cleared Cavendish to start riding again. He returned with a ride at home on the Isle of Man.

"I believe that if he wouldn't trust in his own comeback, he wouldn't do it. He believes he can come back," continued Aldag.

Mark Cavendish crosses the line outside the time cut on stage 11 of the Tour de France (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru Sunada)

"He's always strongest when people write him off, that was the way in 2015, then he won four stages in the Tour de France and an Olympic medal.

"It's good that he starts slowly, takes the time, not to rush it and to give your body an extra rest."

Dimension Data are said to have renewed Cavendish for one more year. They announced Mark Renshaw's extension, and should follow it with Bernhard Eisel and Cavendish.

However, some suggest that Cavendish may not stay with the team for a fourth year given they signed sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo from Trek-Segafredo.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.