Why Mark Cavendish has extra motivation to find a new team to chase the stage wins record

Mark Cavendish’s plans for 2023 may be up in the air but the Manxman still has his sights set on becoming the outright leading stage winner at next summer’s Tour de France, where he believes there will be “seven or eight sprint opportunities”.

Yet to confirm for whom he will be riding next season, Cavendish attended the “nerve-wracking” route announcement for the 2023 Tour on Thursday, where he stayed silent on his ongoing hunt for a new team.

The 37-year-old is out of contract at Quick-Step and was expected to be unveiled at the French ProTour team B&B Hotels this week.

But Cavendish’s arrival has yet to be finalized amid funding concerns and a lack of major sponsors coming on board, with the team canceling a press conference that had been due to take place in Paris on the eve of the Tour presentation.

Related Stories

A tough opening weekend in the Basque Country – described by Cavendish as “the hardest I’ve seen in my career” – and an early visit to the Pyrenees in the opening week captures the challenging nature of the 110th edition of the Tour, which starts in the Spanish city of Bilbao on Saturday 1 July.

A route which features just one 22-kilometer time trial and eight stages in the mountains – including summit finishes in four different mountain ranges – will suit the defending champion Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark and his big Slovenian rival, the two-time winner Tadej Pogacar.

The high-altitude tests are punctuated by an equal number of sprint stages where the peloton’s fast finishers could shine – including stage seven to Bordeaux, where Cavendish won in 2010, and the traditional final day showdown on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where the 2011 world champion has triumphed four times during his illustrious career.

Tour de France 2023 route

An overview of the route can be seen below, and the 21 stages will feature the following:

  • 8 flat stages
  • 4 hilly stages
  • 8 mountain stages with 4 summit finishes (Cauterets-Cambasque, Puy de Dôme, Grand Colombier and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc)
  • 1 individual time trial
  • 2 rest days
The race will start on July 1 in Bilbao, Spain (Photo: AP)

The map and stage details can be viewed in greater detail here.

“If the sprinters can survive the mountains, they’ve got ample opportunities for real bunch sprints. What’s beautiful about the sprints next year are the long finishing straights – old school Tour de France sprints with more than a kilometer of straight road,” Cavendish said.

“If you look down from the finish line, you’ll be able to see the flamme rouge – the banner for the last kilometer – and that will make for the kind of big boulevard sprints that I used to watch when growing up.”

Cavendish drew level with Eddy Merckx’s long-standing record of 34 stage wins in 2021 but was omitted by Quick-Step’s selection last summer, denying him a chance to surpass the great Belgian’s haul.

But five wins over the course of the season – including a victory in the Giro d’Italia – underlined the veteran sprinter’s ability to compete with the best despite his advancing years.

While it is unlikely that any major team with yellow jersey aspirations would take a punt on a sprinter who will turn 38 next May, the publicity generated by Cavendish’s ongoing quest for that elusive 35th win would practically guarantee a wildcard invitation to the world’s biggest race for any second-tier team willing to sign the so-called “Manx Missile”.

It is worth noting that B&B Hotels, the team heavily linked to Cavendish, has in any case been invited to the Tour for the past three years, making it an appealing prospect for a rider who is clearly not ready to throw in the towel just yet .

Tour de France Women 2023 route

The eight-stage women’s race will start on Sunday 23 July next year, and includes the following:

  • 4 flat stages
  • 2 hilly stages
  • 1 mountain stage with a summit finish on the Tourmalet
  • 1 individual time trial
The eight-stage race will start on July 23 (Photo: AP)

The map and stage details can be viewed in greater detail here.

“I love it,” Cavendish admitted of the race where he made his debut fifteen years ago. “The Tour de France has given me my life. I still believe I can write chapters there and that’s why it’s magical to always experience it.”

When pressed on the likelihood of his presence at the start line of the opening stage next July, Cavendish remained coy. “Like for every single rider, nothing’s certain. But everyone dreams of riding the Tour de France, don’t they? But we’re here to talk about the race, which is bigger than any individual – bigger than me.”

Thursday’s presentation also confirmed details of the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes, which will start in Clermont-Ferrand on Sunday 23rd July, the same day the men’s Tour finishes in Paris.

The eight-stage women’s race will finish with a time trial in Pau after a penultimate day summit finish on the legendary Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.