The Renaissance of Cav
Mark Cavendish is undoubtedly one of the greatest sprinters men’s road cycling has ever seen. The Manx Missile is tied for third all-time with 48 Grand Tour stage wins. His 30 Tour de France victories are good for second place, just four shy of the great Eddy Merckx.
At his peak, Cavendish had a devastating turn of speed that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. However, we have not seen a truly prolific season from Cav since 2016. Cavendish last won a WorldTour race in 2017. His last victory at any level came in February of 2018, meaning he is winless since being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus in August of 2018.
There was even some speculation towards the end of last year that the 2020 season would be Cavendish’s last. Thankfully, that outcome has been avoided.
In December, it was announced that Cavendish would be joining Deceuninck – Quick Step for the 2021 season.
To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Incredibly proud to announce an agreement to again join my friends @deceuninck_qst. I’ve never hidden how special my time was there, how special the people & atmosphere are & how special the Flemish heart philosophy of pure racing is pic.twitter.com/xJ6gjlijQs
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) December 5, 2020
In doing so, Cav reunited with the team that he rode with for three seasons between 2013 and 2015.
Early on in the season, Cavendish has already shown significant improvement on his 2020 form.
The 2011 World Champion has had a few helpings of bad luck in the form of untimely mechanicals. When he has come to the line in a position to sprint, however, Cavendish has been very competitive.
At the GP Jean-Pierre Monseré at the beginning of March, Cavendish finished second. He was beaten on the day only by Tim Merlier, one of the fastest finishers not named Caleb Ewan or Sam Bennett.
Today, during stage 1a of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Cav once again ended up second in a bunch sprint.
After stage 1b, Cavendish moved into the overall General Classification lead.
Mark Cavendish will be the new leader of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.
This is the first time he has worn the leader's jersey in a race since February 2017 at the Abu Dhabi Tour
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) March 23, 2021
In a sport where confidence can be so important, this is another great step forward for Cav.
He has yet to secure an elusive victory, but some context is needed.
These second place finishes are Cavendish’s first two podiums since April of 2019. Despite only participating in seven races so far, Cav has already racked up more Pro Cycling Stats ranking points in 2021 than he did in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Cavendish is just a couple of months shy of his 36th birthday, so conventional wisdom would suggest that he is in the home stretch of his career.
With that being said, his recent upturn in form is still a very encouraging sign.
According to Pro Cycling Stats, Cavendish’s 151 career victories place him eighth on the all-time wins list.
Cycling is a very fickle sport, and it must be said storybook endings are certainly not guaranteed.
Cav’s palmarès speaks for itself. He has conducted himself with class throughout his career, even in the face of great pressure and disappointment.
For these reasons, it is fair to say that the majority of cycling fans would like to see the Manx Missile launch one last time before he hangs up his cleats.
Five months ago, it seemed as though that outcome was impossible. Thanks to his recent return to form, the possibility of one final vintage Cavendish victory now appears to be within reach.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)