Mark Cavendish still has the “killer mentality” and can add to his monumental tally of Tour de France wins, according to a friend and former team-mate.
Cavendish returns to racing later this month after taking indefinite leave to battle illness.
But the Brit still has victory in his legs, according to Belgian pro Serge Pauwels who rode with Cavendish at both Dimension Data and Quick-Step.
Pauwels, who now rides for the newly formed CCC Team, told Cycling Weekly: “I would never say he’s not able to come back. I think before 2016 some people would think he was on his way down, but no. Cavendish has the perfect killer mentality to win races as a sprinter and that’s something he will always have.
“I think he can still win stages at the Tour.”
Cavendish make a stunning return to his best in 2016, winning four stages of the Tour and holding the yellow jersey after stage one, winning an Olympic silver medal on the track, finishing second at the World Championships in Qatar and becoming Madison world champion with Sir Bradley Wiggins.
But the 2017 season marked the start of his misfortunes, when he was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus ahead of the Tour de France.
He returned to racing at the Tour, but was forced out of the race after the crash involving Peter Sagan during the dash for the line on stage four.
The 2018 season didn’t signal a return in good fortune for Cavendish, as he suffered crashes in Abu Dhabi, Milan-San Remo and Tirreno Adriatico.
After being eliminated from the Tour de France last year when he failed to make the time cut on stage 11, Cavendish announced he would take an indefinite break from racing after being re-diagnosed with Epstein-Barr.
Pauwels added: “A lot of this was out of his control.
“Last year, his crash in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, then in the Tirreno team time trial he was unlucky, then that horror crash in San-Remo. The year before he had the crash with Sagan in the Tour when he came back from illness. That year nobody would expect him to perform well but you could see he was getting better and better. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had a won stage of the Tour [in 2017].”
Cavendish is closing in on the all-time record for Tour de France wins, held by Eddy Merckx who claimed 34 victories.
With 30 Tour victories to his name, Cavendish is almost within touching distance.
He is expected to return to racing at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina later this month.