Mark Cavendish: Altitude training is essential in order to stay at the top of modern cycling

British sprinter will start 2024 season at Tour Colombia in February and will also include two altitude camps in plan

Mark Cavendish
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish will train at altitude in order to achieve his best condition ahead of his final year, he revealed this week.

The 38-year-old has said that he believes altitude training is an essential component of any modern training programme in order to achieve top level cycling performance. 

The Manxman will begin his 2024 campaign for Astana Qazaqstan at February’s Tour Colombia, held for the first time since the 2020 season, and he said his participation in the race is largely with altitude training in mind. 

Cavendish told the media at the recent Astana winter training camp that he hadn’t had the best of experiences with the training format in the past. However, he explained that he had faith in the Astana team management’s plan to kick off the season. 

"You can find places around Europe that do altitude but normally one of the teams with the massive budgets have booked the hotel for the whole year and stuff so you can't really do it,” he said. “You have to find solutions elsewhere."

"I really haven't done that much altitude in my career but it's kind of you have to do now,” he continued. “It's not like you're getting a benefit from doing it. You're just not so much at the level if you don't do it now.

"I've been [to altitude training] a handful of times when it's been controlled and I've gone very well off it, and the times with Dimension Data when you're just left your own devices and it's kind of gone the other way. I know we've got people around here that know what they're doing with it, so we'll give it a go."

The decision to head to altitude is largely down to Cavendish’s coach Vasilis Anastopoulos. The duo previously worked together at Quick-Step and were reunited at Astana during the off season

Anastopoulos previously told Cycling Weekly in October that a trip to Colombia was on the cards and that he had already begun to put plans in place with Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov. 

He said: “So my proposal is I would like for Mark to do two to three altitude training camps before the Tour. At the end of the day, I think based on the race programme, we will probably do two camps.

“Checking the weather at the end of January, February time, there are not too many places in Europe where you can do a camp.

“There's Mount Teide, but it's usually really booked out and it's pretty hilly for a guy like Mark. And you know, there's Sierra Nevada, but it's full of snow, the weather's bad then. 

"So I'm looking at some other options in Colombia where you can train high, but also there's some roads where it's pretty flat so you can also do some sprint work over there. That’s the draft idea I already have for next year.” 

Cavendish was set to quit cycling at the end of last season but elected to postpone retirement and continue for another year after crashing out of the Tour de France in July. 

His decision to ride on was largely due to the faith shown in him by the Astana management, including Vinokourov.

Astana have further increased their sprinting firepower during the off season with the acquisition of Davide Ballerini and Michael Mørkøv from Soudal Quick-Step. Both riders played an integral part in Cavendish’s success in Quick-Step colours at the 2021 Tour. 

Cavendish’s big goal of the 2024 season will be one final stage win at the French Grand Tour which would give him the outright record of the most stage wins at the race. He is currently tied on 34 with Eddy Merckx. 

Cavendish hailed the signing of his former teammates and called Mørkøv “the best leadout man in the world.”

He said: "For sure, anybody that has Michael Mørkøv has a better chance to win a stage of the Tour de France. It's great – we've raced together since we were 14 years old. We've been through everything cycling at the same time even off the bike. 

"Just like [Mark] Renshaw was, he's the calm to my not so calm. There's a good balance in the room as well."

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