Mark Cavendish is ready to put in his maximum effort and win a stage at the Tour de France as he prepares for a surprise return to action.
Cavendish had not expected to take part for Deceuninck-Quickstep at this year’s Tour but Sam Bennett’s injury problems amid a controversial fallout with team head Patrick Lefevere meant that the 36-year-old British veteran was a surprise inclusion for the team.
Cavendish impressed at the Tour of Turkey and then the Baloise Belgium Tour to give his team the option of bringing him to France, and he now is ready to compete in earnest as he searches for another career sprint stage victory.
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"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't going to try and sprint," Cavendish told Cyclingnews.
These days riders try to push away expectations but I hate to do that even if I have to sometimes. I'm a racer and will always be a racer, and will always try to win. Nobody can say I don't try at what I do.
The third stage represents Cavendish’s first credible chance for a stage victory in France. While Cavendish and others will be obliged to serve Julian Alaphilippe, there will be Michael Morkov on hand to assist the sprinter, something that Cavendish is delighted with.
"I've got the best lead-out man on the planet in Michael," Cavendish said.
"I've got an opportunity to race the Tour with Deceuninck-QuickStep and that makes it something special. We're a real team off the bike, too, and I'm just happy to pull on this jersey. If I'm collecting bottles or to make people laugh, I'm just honoured to be at the Tour de France."
Cavendish last rode at the Tour de France in 2018, and last took a stage in 2016. But injuries, episodes of Epstein Barr syndrome and difficulties with his team almost led to his retirement until he came back from a 2020 coronavirus-blighted season with Bahrain-McLaren, before Lefevere stepped in for 2021.
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"It's incredible to be back and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't emotional," Cavendish admitted.
"People have had a lot more problems in life than I've had, especially recently, I know that. But what I had to come through made me realise what is important in life and why I do the things I do.
"I've never taken the Tour de France for granted. The Tour de France is special, it's the biggest race in cycling but also one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Every kid who sits on a bike dreams of riding the Tour de France. That never changes, however old you get.
"It was my dream to ride the Tour as a kid and has been my life for 15 years. That won't change. I've always enjoyed the Tour and always will if I win a sprint or not."
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