It would have been difficult if not impossible to avoid the story of Mark Cavendish’s comeback in 2021. In late 2020, he was a man who had all but given up on the idea of extending his career, when a last-minute contract with his old team Deceuninck–Quick-Step was offered. This deal would allow him to bow out of the sport with dignity – and who knows, maybe even a couple more wins.
But with the pressure off, and expectations lowered, the Manxman slowly but surely returned to the forefront of the sport. Although it wasn't in the plan to take Cavendish to the Tour, a late injury for team-mate and fellow sprinter, Sam Bennett, meant the opportunity arose and along came Cav.
By the end of the three weeks, he’d done the unthinkable and won four stages, the maillot vert and equalled Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage win count. You could almost see the old wounds healing. Out of the Tour stepped a man with a revived sense of belonging and a renewed hunger for racing his bike.
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A year ago, we thought he was done, but now with a freshly-inked one-year extension for the Manx Missile, it’s a great time for Cavendish and his fans to dream big.

Make it ‘the Mark Cavendish record’

Although if you ask him, he’ll deny even being interested in Merckx’s record, you could see his disappointment after being narrowly beaten on the Champs-Élysées by Wout van Aert and thus missing his chance for stage victory number 35. For 2022, will he be back to finish the job? We'd love to see it, but it all depends on his race schedule. And don't forget, even though Sam Bennett has moved on from the Wolfpack, Fabio Jakobsen, another sprinter with a comeback story, could be selected ahead of Cavendish.
It’s not just rivals for the number one spot that pose a problem for ‘Cav 35’. Lead-out man par excellence, Michael Mørkøv has retired too and will not be there in France to pilot Deceuninck’s chosen fast-man to the line as he was in 2021.
The odds may be stacked against Cavendish even getting to France, but that won’t kill the dream of just one more Tour de France stage win.

'Don't say the name!' - Mark Cavendish relishes stage win and refuses to mention Eddy Merckx record

Keep winning

Easier said than done, particularly with the high level of sprinting prowess around in the men's WorldTour today. However, he has proved on several occasions in 2021 that he can still take on the best, but it all depends on what the team management has planned for his calendar. Will he be headlining the Grand Tours? Or are they going to hedge their bets with Jakobsen? Whatever his schedule, we hope to see his reign continue through 2022, not least because winning makes for a happy Cavendish…
Well, mostly happy.

Stay happy

Of course, we'd love to see him perform as he did at the 2021 Tour all year round, but that kind of form is unsustainable. Instead, and although this may seem at odds with what team management may want to prioritise over results, we hope that Cavendish stays happy. It was obvious he had dug himself into a deep hole before last year, and although there were a few temper tantrums and outbursts that shone back to the older, less mature Manxman, there was plenty of growth visible too.
And with more and more professional cyclists speaking out about the intensity of their careers and pressure on performing at every single race, more are also looking towards trying to maintain a sense of self and putting their health and happiness before cycling. For example, Tom Dumoulin taking a break and successfully returning to win silver at the Olympic individual time trial just demonstrates the importance of remembering to re-find the reason these riders turned professional in the first place. If you've sucked the life out of your sport, your career, you're unlikely to succeed.
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