It’s the same goal he’s had since he first took the start line at the race in 2007, and even now, as he prepares for his 14th and final lap of France, his mind is set on victories.
“The whole experience of the Tour, you can’t describe it,” he said in a press conference on Thursday. “This race gives me the most incredible emotions. But unfortunately you can’t really analyse it and appreciate it until afterwards.
“It’s the same every year, and I know it’s my last one, but it’s still the same, I have a job to do.”
This time round, the job is simple. One more stage win would place Cavendish as the sole record holder for all-time stage wins, a title he currently shares with Eddy Merckx, with both men tied on 34.
Asked what it would mean for him to break the record, Cavendish sat in silence for 32 seconds. He looked around the conference room pensively, smiled and waited for the words to come to him.
“In all honesty, I don’t know,” he answered in a sincere tone. “I just want to try and win as much as I can. I’m sorry.”
The same determination, he explained, is still there. “I don’t know anything different really,” he said. “I think the biggest thing you can instil is to never give up. It’s the biggest thing I’ve instilled into my kids. They can do what they want and enjoy it.”
Cavendish’s last victory came on the final day of the Giro d’Italia, when, after three gruelling weeks and a host of mountain passes, he won comfortably from a bunch sprint in Rome. His form, he said, is still up in the air. “You never really know where you’re at in the race until you start racing.”
As the Brit answered questions, Jayco AlUla’s Dylan Groenewegen sat next to him in an identical arm chair. In what was arranged as a joint press conference, the focus lay primarily on Cavendish, and even the Dutchman took his moment to pay homage.
“When I was young, I always looked to the Tour de France and for me the sprints are the most beautiful stages,” Groenewegen said. “It was always Mark Cavendish, with a lot of other sprinters, of course.
"I have a lot of respect for Mark, and hopefully you can win stages," he said, turning to address Cavendish directly. “I think he’s showing us this year that his level is really good. He is still one of the best sprinters and it’s up to us guys to beat him. He’s the best sprinter in the world, and he still is.”
Smiling, Cavendish reached across and fist bumped Groenewegen.
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