Looking back on his career, Mark Cavendish has opened up about the mental struggles he faced by going from multiple Tour de France stage race winner to a rider incapable of competing for event honours.
It took the Manxman three years to win a race between 2018 and 2021, taking from his stage three victory at the 2018 Dubai Tour until his stage two triumph at the Tour of Turkey in 2021. During that period he battled depression and the Epstein-Barr virus, with the management in an old team exacerbating his problems.
Cavendish, who is currently at the UAE Tour, told Marca: "I went from being the best in the world to one of the worst overnight. I was misdiagnosed and mismanaged by people I trusted in an old team and it pretty much wiped out everything physically that I had worked for, and along with that came mental health issues."
Cavendish spent four years with South African-based Team Dimension Data - the now defunct Qhubeka-NextHash - between 2016 and 2019, before moving to Bahrain-McLaren for a solitary season in 2020. After Gent-Wevelgem in October 2020, Cavendish stated the race could be his last as a professional cyclist as he was without a WorldTour contract for 2021.
Fortunately, Deceuninck-Quick Step - now Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl - stepped in to offer him a lifeline in December 2020, and the 36-year-old has managed to repay that faith back in abundance since.
He ended his three-year drought without a win at the Tour of Turkey, before winning four stages in the 2021 Tour de France to match Eddy Merckx's record of 34 victories. Now back to his best, Cavendish most recently won the second stage of the UAE Tour, having started his 2022 season off with a stage victory at the Tour of Oman - although, he did endure some controversy along the way.
Much is made about Cavendish riding the Tour de France again this season, with the prospect of topping the all-time list for the most stage wins ever at the Tour de France a no-brainer for most. However, when asked if he will return to the Tour again this year, the 35-year-old gives little away.
"I don't know," Cavendish admitted. "I'm in the Emirates now and I don't know if I'll be in France. I've already said that I'm not trying to beat someone else's record. I just try to win as much as I can whenever I can. Whether I beat him or not is more of a journalistic question, I only think about winning as much as I can."
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