Mark Cavendish is set to be reunited with his former coach, Vasilis Anastopoulos, who worked with the Manxman at Soudal Quick-Step for his final pro season at Astana Qazaqstan.
According to Ciro Scognamiglio of La Gazetta dello Sport who first broke the story, Anastopoulos is expected to leave the Belgian team to join Cavendish at Astana.
Cycling Weekly has since had confirmation from Soudal Quick-Step that Anastopoulos is set to leave the team.
Another source with knowledge of the situation has also confirmed that the 47-year-old will join Astana Qazaqstan next year.
On Tuesday afternoon it was reported that Cavendish had reached an agreement with Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov to continue racing in 2024.
Anastopoulos’ imminent arrival at Vinokourov’s team all but confirms that Cavendish will postpone retirement for another year and race on.
The Greek ex-pro turned coach was instrumental in getting Cavendish back to winning ways in 2021, when he won four stages of the Tour de France.
That year Cycling Weekly named Cavendish our Male Rider of the Year.
Speaking about his relationship with the coach when they first met at Quick-Step Cavendish said: "Vasi is quite loud, quite assertive over what he wants and thinks, but if you take a second to listen to what he’s saying, those hairs stop going off on your back.
"He asked me to come to his room and we met and he just laid himself and his plans out and it put me at ease as he knew what he was talking about.”
The legendary British sprinter is the current joint record holder for the most stage wins at the French Grand Tour. Cavendish is tied on 34 wins with Eddy Merckx and narrowly missed out on a 35th victory earlier this year.
In July he showed he can still conjure the form necessary to win a 35th stage. On stage seven in Bordeaux, the 38-year-old finished second to eventual green jersey winner Jasper Philipsen with a late mechanical issue with his bike preventing him from crossing the line first.
After Cavendish’s impressive showing, Astana were then struck by disaster 24 hours later when a heavy crash forced the Manxman to abandon. It was later confirmed that he had fractured his collarbone in the incident.
In May Cavendish announced at the Giro d'Italia that he would retire from professional cycling at the end of the current season.
However, in the aftermath of his withdrawal from the Tour Astana boss Vinokourov told Cycling Weekly on the Puy de Dôme that he would be open to Cavendish continuing racing with the team in 2024.
“We’re leaving Mark to recover, and then we will see,” said Vinokourov, when asked about a possible contract extension.
“Maybe he’ll come to Paris and we will see. I am ready. Of course, it’s not easy to continue at a good level, but we saw today [9 July, stage nine to the Puy de Dôme] a rider like [Michael] Woods, 36, and he won. I think Mark can, too. We need to be stronger, but he didn’t dream to finish his career like this.”
If the team is to make Cavendish another contract offer, it is unlikely it will be for the entire season. “Six months for the Tour is enough,” Vinokourov explained, “for our goal, our dream. It would be realistic.”
Cycling Weekly approached Astana for comment regarding Cavendish’s contract situation on Tuesday but the team declined to provide any update on discussions.
With Anastopoulos’ expected arrival, along with Danish rider Michael Mørkøv from Quick-Step, it appears increasingly likely that an announcement on Cavendish’s future could be imminent.
Mørkøv recently told Ekstra Bladet that he will leave his current team at the end of the year. The Danish rider has since been heavily linked with a move to Astana.
Astana have already strengthened their lead-out train for next season with the acquisition of Davide Ballerini from the Belgian team along with Ide Schelling from Bora-Hansgrohe.
Cavendish is expected to return to racing action at the Presidential Cycling Tour of Türkiye next month where he is likely to face Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Philipsen.
Cycling Weekly has approached Astana Qazaqstan for comment once more regarding the expected arrival of Anastopoulos but the team had not responded at the time of going to press.
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