Cavendish talks comebacks, why sprinting is 'dying', and an exciting future at Bahrain-McLaren
Mark Cavendish has said he is looking forward to what lies ahead with his Bahrain-McLaren team-mates and is now "incredibly happy" following a series of setbacks that have disrupted his riding over the last three years.
In an exclusive in-depth Eurosport interview, the 34-year-old opened up on life with his new team, who he joined from Team Dimension Data in October 2020, and predicted a successful year following on from team-mate Phil Bauhaus's victory at the Saudi Tour last week.
Cavendish has been struck by a succession of injuries and disruptions in recent years, including a fractured rib at the 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico and a fractured shoulder at the 2017 Tour de France.
His last stage win at a Grand Tour came back in 2016, and missed the Tour de France entirely last year because of strained relations with Team Dimension Data owner Douglas Ryder, but said he is ready to put all recent hardships behind him and enjoy success with his new team.
"It's incredible," he said of Bahrain-McLaren, which was founded in 2017 as a partnership between the Kingdom of Bahrain and manufacturer McLaren. "If you look from the outside, a team that's just three years old - it's grown to be one of the biggest teams in the sport.
"It was always going to be enticing. Then add to that a brand that I was a fan of since I was a kid - McLaren. Then the merger of that was like a dream come true, that's before you even start racing.
"There's a lot of guys [in the team] who you could call old, but we prefer to use the word experienced. Some of the guys have raced together in previous teams. Some of us were big rivals were many years. In a way that helps you understand each other even more than if you were team-mates. There's a real good ambience, on and off the bike. I'm sure it will translate into results this year."
This season is Cavendish's first since the retirement of long-time team-mate and friend Bernhard Eisel, who announced he was calling time on a 19-year career in January.
"I miss Bernie," said Cavendish. "He's one of my best friends. I've spent more time in a bedroom with Bernie than I have with my own wife. But life moves on. He's happy, he's at home. I spoke to him 30 minutes ago and he was taking his daughter to ballet dancing. Now he can look after his kids instead of looking after me. That makes me happy.
"But this is a real close knit team. When you can have that feeling with not just two or three guys, but 20 to 30 guys, then it's pretty special.
Mark Cavendish of United Kingdom and Team Bahrain-Mclaren / Marcel Sieberg of Germany and Team Bahrain-Mclaren / Heinrich Haussler of Australia and Team Bahrain-Mclaren / Phil Bauhaus of Germany and Team Bahrain-Mclaren Red Points Jersey / Celebration / dGetty Images
"I've known nothing but being part of a winning team. Through illness and through other things that weren't really my problem, I've missed that the last few years. That's why I ride a bike - I like to win.
" Whether it's me or a team-mate crosses the line first, I'm just looking forward to celebrating again. That's what I'm looking forward to with this team. I know it's going to be a successful year and it makes me happy again. It makes me incredibly happy."
"Sprinting is becoming a dying part of the sport really. We've got a lot of talented sprinters in the world, but races time and time again seem to be trying to eliminate sprints. That puts a whole genre of road cyclists in a perilous position. We all feel that and feel bonded by it.
"We all know the risks we take on the road. Ultimately most of us have a really good relationship because of that."