Mark Cavendish is reportedly interested in riding on into the 2023 season – and he may do so away from Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.
Wielerflits reports that the Manx sprinter, 36, is weighing his options and considering looking elsewhere next year. At Quick-Step, he has experienced a remarkable career turnaround, winning four stages and the points classification at the 2021 Tour de France, five years after his most recent Tour stage win up to that point.
At Quick-Step, however, Cavendish finds himself in a slightly crowded field of sprinters. The team has long seen Fabio Jakobsen as its heir apparent leader in the sprints. Patrick Lefevere has previously said that Quick-Step is planning to take the young Dutchman to this year’s Tour, although nothing is certain.
With that in mind, Cavendish is currently racing the Giro d’Italia, where he took his 16th career stage win earlier this week. He has publicly expressed frustration with being asked by reporters about the competition for a Tour spot within the team, but that probably won’t keep reporters from continuing to ask about it.
Regardless of how this year’s Tour plays out, Cavendish has shown that he remains a hugely talented rider who could boost any roster he joins, and, should he wish to continue, he’ll likely find suitors without other sprinters on the roster to potentially keep him from adding to his record-tying Tour stage win total.
Where might Cavendish sign? Where should he sign?
For now, we can only try to make an educated guess as to where Cavendish might end up next year, as there has been little indication of this or that specific team being interested in him. That said, prognosticating on things we don’t really have any evidence for can be fun, so let’s swap the reporter hat for the analyst hat and dive in.
To be crystal clear, we are purely speculating here As to which teams might be good fits, without any information whatsoever linking him to any particular squad, so keep that in mind if you see other outlets citing CyclingTips for Cavendish transfer rumors with juicy headlines, as happens all too often in other sports!
Right. Now that that is out of the way … It seems unlikely that Cavendish would leave Quick-Step and the great lead-out train he has there for another squad with the very same problem of having too many star speedsters hoping for Tour sprint opportunities in the same team. As such, you would think that the best fits for Cavendish are teams that don’t have another marquee sprinter around.
Among the more obvious teams whose rosters wouldn’t accommodate an additional sprinter particularly well are Lotto Soudal with Caleb Ewan, Bora-Hansgrohe with Sam Bennett, BikeExchange-Jayco with Dylan Groenewegen, UAE Team Emirates with Pascal Ackermann and, if he renews, Fernando Gaviria, and Groupama-FDJ with Arnaud Démare.
Jumbo-Visma with Wout van Aert doesn’t seem like a particularly good place to sign either, though they seem more willing to pay big money for depth than some teams out there.
So we’re down to:
- Ag2r-Citroën Team
- Astana Qazaqstan Team
- Bahrain Victorious
- EF Education-Nippo
- Ineos Grenadiers
- Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
- Israel Start-Up Nation
Team Jumbo-Visma Lotto-Soudal
- Movistar Team
- Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
- Team DS
UAE Team Emirates
For a number of other teams in the pro peloton, despite Cavendish’s speed, the fit just might not be there. It’s hard to see Cavendish signing with Movistar, for instance, considering the team’s heavily Spanish-speaking, climbing-oriented roster. DSM might make sense from a roster perspective, but Cavendish might steer clear of a squad so committed to doing things its own way. Bahrain Victorious would be another odd team to join, considering Cavendish rode there quite recently before departing, and his old mentor Rod Ellingworth is no longer with the team.
Israel-Premier Tech presents an interesting case. The team has Giacomo Nizzolo on its roster, but the Italian could be content to continue targeting the Giro d’Italia, where he is a two-time points champion, ceding leadership at the Tour de France to Cavendish. Israel-Premier Tech has certainly flexed its deep pockets on occasion over the past few seasons and doesn’t seem to mind hiring riders who are more… experienced.
The Ineos Grenadiers, with Elia Viviani, could be in a similar situation, though it’s hard to imagine the team bringing Cavendish to the Tour these days even though they did it in the past.
Alpecin-Fenix has both Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier right now, in addition to Mathieu van der Poel obviously, but neither Philipsen nor Merlier is signed into next year, so the Belgian outfit at least seems like a possibility.
EF Education-EasyPost could certainly stand to add a rider of Cavendish’s caliber, but the team has one of the smaller budgets around, which could be prohibitive. The other US-registered top-tier team, Trek-Segafredo, may have the cash, and as fast a finisher as Mads Pedersen is, the Classics tend to be his biggest targets. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Cavendish on a Trek?
All that said, another season of Cavendish riding Specialized certainly seems like one of the most plausible options. The bike brand has paid a portion of his salary in the past. That would mean Bora (a no for the reasons above) or Total Energies, joining Peter Sagan.
As frustrating as it will be for whichever sprinter misses out on the opportunities at the Tour, there’s no doubt that his return to Quick-Step has revitalized Cavendish’s career, and that may be worth something to him. Renewing feels likely. He was willing to take a bonus-focused contract before and may do so again.
As ever, we’ll keep you posted if we hear anything.