COCCAGLIO, Italy—Veteran sprint specialist Mark Cavendish announced Monday that he will retire from cycling at the end of this season, which could see him break the long-standing record for most stage wins at the Tour de France.
The British rider, who competes for the Astana Qazaqstan team, turned 38 the previous day.
“Cycling has been my life for over 25 years. I have lived an absolute dream,” he said.
Cavendish made the announcement on the final rest day of this year’s Giro d’Italia, where he is looking to add to his 53 Grand Tour stage victories.
“I’ve absolutely loved racing every kilometer of this race so far, so I feel it’s the perfect time to say it’s my final Giro d’Italia and 2023 will be my final season as a professional cyclist,” Cavendish said. “Yesterday I celebrated my 38th birthday. Like many others I’ve been struggling with sickness during the race as well as the effects of some unfortunate crashes. To get me through, I can’t thank this group of friends enough.”
Cavendish has had a streak of bad luck at this year’s Giro, which has been beset by rain and miserable weather conditions.
Two of his attempts to sprint to an 18th victory in the Italian Grand Tour were hampered by late crashes. He also finished third on the 11th stage last week.
There are two more stages likely to end in a sprint: Wednesday’s 17th stage and the final day’s leg that finishes in Rome on Sunday.
Cavendish will attempt to break the Tour de France record for most stage wins when this year’s race begins in July. Cavendish matched Eddy Merckx’s mark of 34 stage wins at the 2021 Tour but was left off Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s roster for the race the following year, despite having just clinched his second British national title.
He wouldn’t look ahead to that opportunity yet, though.
“Right now there’s no need to talk about my short — and long-term plans — I’ll always be a cyclist, that’s for sure,” Cavendish said. “But for this final period I’d like to just enjoy doing what’s made me happy for the last 25 years, and that’s simply to race.”
British Cycling performance director Stephen Park paid tribute to Cavendish in a statement on Monday.
“On behalf of British Cycling, I would like to congratulate Mark on a truly outstanding career,” he said.
“Cav is without doubt the sport’s greatest sprinter and will be remembered by fans across the world for his 53 grand tour stage wins, and I’m sure that we will all be cheering him on as he looks to add to that total in his final months of racing.
As well as his Grand Tour exploits, Cavendish won the world championship in 2011 and a silver medal in the omnium at the Olympics in 2016.
“Professional and passionate, Cav has been a real asset to our team over the years and will be remembered as both a peerless rider and a fantastic teammate with time for everyone,” Park added.
“We wish him the very best of luck both for the rest of his final season in the peloton and in the next stage of his career.”
Also present at the news conference on Monday were Cavendish’s wife, Peta, and their four children.
“Today is my son Casper’s fifth birthday, fortunately it’s a rest day and I can spend his birthday with him,” Cavendish said. “I think it’s important now that I can be there for every birthday for my wife Peta and all our children.
“It’s important I can see all their school concerts and support them in their sporting competitions and it’s important I can run around with them without fear of injury or getting sick.”
Image credits: AP