Mark Cavendish is to stay at Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl for another year, team manager Patrick Lefevere has confirmed.
A year ago, it appeared that the 36-year-old’s career might be over with his contract with Bahrain McLaren expiring last December, until Lefevere offered him the chance to ride for the 2020 season.
Cavendish joined the team on minimum wage, financed by a personal sponsor, on a one-year contract.
A rejuvenated Cavendish took 10 victories this year, including four stages at the Tour de France to draw level with Eddy Merckx’s record haul of 34 stages, and he also won the green points jersey for the second time in his career.
However, there have been protracted negotiations over a potential extension, with Lefevere saying last month that Cavendish’s desire to transition to a managerial role with the team was proving a stumbling block.
The situation was not helped either by Cavendish’s crash at the Ghent Six Day last month which left him with two broken ribs and a punctured lung.
> Mark Cavendish reveals ‘hole behind heart’ after serious crash in Belgium
But Lefevere has today confirmed to the Belgian broadcaster Sporza that a one-year deal for 2022 has been agreed with Cavendish.
“Mark wanted an extension of his fairy tale and I didn't want to take that away from him,” the Belgian said.
“Everyone knows the story by now: when managers and lawyers come into play, it gets more difficult.
“Mark is very concerned about his image and I understand that. It took a long time, yes.
“However, it didn't make me impatient in the sense that I knew it would happen anyway. But at some point you hand it over and when the contract is done, let the people do it."
Asked whether the contract extension was based on bonuses for performance, Lefevere said: “It wasn't even like that this year. Mark had an outrageous minimum contract because there was no budget anymore. The bonuses came during the season.”
Reflecting on the Manx rider’s performances last year, he said: “It has become a very beautiful fairy tale. Sometimes they don’t last too long, but Mark wanted an extension and I didn't want to take that away from him.”
As to whether Cavendish could match his results this year, when he bounced back to take his first wins in more than three years during which time he struggled with illness and injury, Lefevere said: “It's almost mission impossible, but you never know when a cow catches a hare.”
(The phrase – in the original Dutch, je weet nooit hoe een koe een haas vangt – is employed in situations in which someone is not sure what the result of their actions will be, but take a chance nonetheless).
It is not clear whether the deal negotiated includes a guarantee that Cavendish will race the Tour de France for the 14th time in his career and thereby get a chance to become the single most successful rider in the history of the race in terms of stage wins.
This year, he was beaten into second place on the Champs-Elysees by Wout van Aert, and Lefevere said: “I wanted Mark to win a 5th stage in Paris and say ‘ciao’ there. But athletes who get older have a hard time saying goodbye.
“After the presentation of the Tour in Paris in October, we sat together again. I then asked him if he would like to race for another year. Yes, he said, even if he had won on the Champs-Elysées. He didn’t then know what would happen next. But I'm not committing for more than a year.”
Notwithstanding his injury, Cavendish will travel to Spain for a training camp with the team, although he will not be going by plane.
“He is not allowed to fly for six weeks because of his perforated lung after his fall in the Ghent Six Days, but during the first training camp there are mainly photo sessions,” Lefevere explained.
“The riders have a programme from 8am to 8pm with obligations, exercises and checks. The first few days they will hardly ride, but we want him to be there,” he added.
“Is the picture of our team with Mark then complete? In principle yes,” he concluded.
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