On the road from Santena to Torino on Saturday, Mark Cavendish will celebrate his 37th birthday. The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sprinter is unlikely to challenge on an undulating day in Piedmont, with five classified climbs and over 3000 metres of climbing, meaning it will likely be a stage for punchier riders.
However, Cavendish has a lot to celebrate. The Manxman has now won 160 races over his 17-year career, including 16 stages of the Giro d'Italia, which he has added to at this very race, winning stage three in Balatonfüred. He hasn't finished yet.
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, published on Thursday, Cavendish said that he wants to carry on for at least two more years.
"I want to extend my career for at least another two years," he said. "It's not just that I want to keep cycling, I feel I can be competitive for at least another two years. Maybe more, but two years should certainly be possible."
If this was the case, Cavendish would be 39 by the time he thought about retiring. Aged 37, Vincenzo Nibali has announced that he would be retiring this year. However, Cavendish wants to keep going. He is now just one win behind Mario Cipollini on the all-time wins ranking, the only pure sprinter ahead of him on the list.
At the end of 2020, it looked like he would be retiring from cycling before he was saved from that by a deal with Quick-Step. He took that opportunity with both hands, and ended up winning four stages at last year's Tour de France. He clearly still has the speed to keep going, but he might need to find a contract.
Dutch website Wielerflits reported that Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Fenix will be moving Belgian teams to Quick-Step next season, meaning there will no longer be a spot for Cavendish. It has also been reported that he is being offered to other teams, who surely will be keen to snap the fast man up.
Despite being level with Eddy Merckx's record of 34 Tour stage wins last season, and winning the green jersey, Cavendish is believed to be behind Fabio Jakobsen in the running for his team's Tour squad.
Earlier this month, he said that reports of a rivalry between him and his Dutch teammate over a Tour spot are "lazy".
Cavendish told Gazzetta that he would be "prepared" for the July Grand Tour, but the decision was out of his hands.
“The truth is this: if I could only win one more, I’d be happy. If I could win ten more, I’d be happy. The number really, really isn’t a factor for me at all, that’s the truth,” he said.
“Of course, I’d love to do [the Tour de France], but I’m a professional and I’ve always been a professional and I do what’s required for my team. You know I’ll always be prepared for it, but it’s not my decision. It’s not something that I think or don’t think about. I just do my job.”
For now, Cavendish is looking to finish the Giro, potentially riding all the way to Verona. After that, he will simply try to keep going. There is no end to the "Manx Missile" story just yet.
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