Mark Cavendish joins Astana in bid to win one record-breaking Tour de France stage

Mark Cavendish has signed for Astana-Qazaqstan (Steve Welsh/PA) (PA Archive)
Mark Cavendish has signed for Astana-Qazaqstan (Steve Welsh/PA) (PA Archive)

Mark Cavendish is set for a chance to finally break the long-standing record for Tour de France stage wins this summer after signing for Astana Qazaqstan.

Cavendish, 37, left QuickStep Alpha Vinyl after falling behind Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen in the pecking order. It meant he missed last year’s Tour and the chance to surpass Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins, which has stood for 45 years. Cavendish needs just one stage victory to take the record outright.

The Manxman has signed a one-year contract with the Kazakhstani team, following months of speculation over his future.

“I am really excited for this adventure,” Cavendish said. “I raced with [team manager] Alexandr Vinokurov for many years, and now I’m racing with his two boys! I remember when they were children the same age as my own, dreaming to be bike racer.

“Astana Qazaqstan Team is going to be a great place to be successful, with a strong team led by Alexandr, a champion on the bike and a gentleman off the bike. I’ve enjoyed a long career already, but the joy of riding my bike and the hunger to continue winning are as bright as ever.

“So I’m looking forward to being part of a successful team, whether working with the team for wins, crossing the line first myself, or cheering on my teammates. As always, the objective will be for us to stand on the top podium.”

Astana have been in search of a high-profile name after the retirement of Vincenzo Nibali and the sacking of Miguel Angel Lopez over alleged links to a doctor at the heart of a doping scandal.

Cavendish brings a potential new direction for the team at the three grand tours, with the team likely to focus on the flat stages he can win rather than mountainous routes or the overall race.

The arrival of a top sprinter in our team is kind of a challenge for us, but we are ready for it. We see new ways and new possibilities,” Vinokourov said.

“The goals however are still the same – victories in any kind of race: Classics, stages in different stage races and, of course, in the Grand Tours.”

More to follow...