Mark Cavendish: Tour de France 2023 has 'ample opportunities for bunch sprints'

Fast man thinks there might be seven or eight sprint chances, but he has to find a team first

Mark Cavendish Tour de France 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Don't listen to the marketing bumf, Mark Cavendish reckons there will be seven or eight opportunities for the fast men in next year's Tour de France.

Having sat through the route presentation at the Palais des Congrès in Paris on Thursday, the Manx sprinter told the media that despite it being the "hardest" start to a Tour he has seen in his career, there should be "ample" chances for bunch sprints later in the race.

“For sprinters, if they can survive the mountains then they have ample opportunities for bunch sprints," he said. "Long boulevard finishes with more than a kilometre of normal straight. It will make exciting days all round. There are maybe seven or eight sprint opportunities. It’s a lot. And real sprint opportunities."

The press release from the race organisers mentioned just four stage finishes, as if these were the ones nailed on: Bordeaux, Limoges, Moulins, and Champs-Elysées, but Cavendish reckons there will be more.

However, as we have seen in recent editions of the Tour, stages that are set for bunch finishes can be derailed, like stage four to Calais this year, won by Wout van Aert, and stage 19 of the same race, won by his Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte in Cahors.

Cavendish remains on 34 stage wins at the Tour, meaning he is tied for the all-time record of stage wins with Eddy Merckx. He is hoping to break this number in July 2023.

To get there, he first needs to find a team for next year. 

A new B&B Hotels project was expected to be the destination for Cavendish, after he did not have his contract renewed by Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. B&B would likely gain a wildcard invite to the Tour, which would help Cavendish on his quest to break the record.

However, on Monday evening, a planned press conference to launch the rebranded team run by Jerome Pineau, set for Wednesday, was postponed at short notice.

On Tuesday morning, the leading French sports newspaper L'Équipe published a report suggesting that none of the potential sponsorship contracts have been signed yet, with the team past the UCI's initial registration deadline. While Pineau has reportedly reassured riders, it still appears up in the air.

Cavendish declined to comment on breaking Merckx's record.

Instead, he discussed the nature of next year's race. The race will start on foreign soil for the second year in a row, with a Grand Départ in the Spanish Basque Country, the setting for the race's 120th anniversary. Two hilly stages in Spain then follow, before the peloton crosses the border into France for a stage finish in Bayonne on day three. 

There is just one time trial across the three-week event, a short uphill race against the clock from Passy to Combloux over 22km. There are also returns for other epic climbs like the Col de la Loze and the Grand Colombier.

“The Tour de France is always hard," Cavendish said. "It’s the Tour de France. It’s the biggest and most incredible bike race on the planet. Both the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift provide opportunities for everyone."

“Brutal stages but also great bunch sprints, and time trials. I think that the start is going to be the hardest one I’ve seen in my career but exciting and it’s going to be a good show. It will change things up with the GC riders dictating things pretty early on rather than setting into it.”

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