One opportunity. One clear path to the line. One stage win. That's all Mark Cavendish needs at his final Tour de France to take the all-time record for stage wins at the race, a record that was set in 1975 by Eddy Merckx.
No pressure, then. Cavendish will ride his last Tour - his 14th - for Astana Qazaqstan, the team announced on Monday afternoon, along with a squad that is split between helping him win that crucial stage and targeting general classification. The Manxman is retiring at the end of the season, and will hope to win his 35th stage at the Tour.
Cavendish's support comes in the form of Cees Bol, signed specifically to help lead him out at this race, Gianni Moscon, who also rode the Giro d'Italia with Cavendish, and Yevgeniy Fedorov.
To help with its goal, Astana Qazaqstan team has brought in Mark Renshaw, Cavendish's long-term former leadout man to consult on sprint finishes. He led Cavendish to many of his famous wins, including helping him to six in 2009, when both rode for Columbia HTC.
Cavendish's first - and only - win of the season to date came in May at the Giro d'Italia, where the 38-year-old won the final stage in Rome. He only needs a single similar opportunity to go top in the all-time stage win ranking. The Manxman will be wearing Astana's special Tour kit at the July race, after his time in the British champion's bands ended on Sunday.
“Mark’s recent victory in the Giro d'Italia is proof that he still possesses the speed, power, and determination needed to win Grand Tour stages," Mark Renshaw said last week. "With the support of Astana Qazaqstan Team and the talented riders selected for the race, I am confident that he has what it takes to win in this year’s Tour de France.
"I cancelled other jobs in July which shows my confidence in him. As we prepare for the important sprint stages, I am excited to work with the team’s Sports Directors to develop effective tactics and strategies, analysing and breaking down sprint stages is something I absolutely love to do.
"Mark’s career is already a big success, but I am excited to have the opportunity to help Mark finish his career on an absolute high and chase his 35th victory in the Grand Boucle."
Astana's GC bid will be spearheaded by Alexey Lutsenko, who has finished in the top 10 at the last two Tours de France, supported by David De La Cruz, Luis León Sánchez and Harold Tejada.
The team will hope to make history with Cavendish, and see Lutsenko finish up as high as possible overall over the three weeks.
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