Mark Cavendish, the 39-year-old Manxman, shared his emotions as he prepared for what will be his final Tour de France. Speaking at a pre-race press conference, he reflected on his career and his hopes for one last victory.

“I feel it again,” he admitted, tears evident in his eyes. “I love this sport. I’ve loved everything about the sport, especially this race. It’s quite beautiful this year with the start in Florence, near where I lived for 10 years. Starting here, then going to France is just perfect. I’ve got a job to do but on an emotional level, it’s very, very nice. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I think I’m more ready now [for retirement] than I was last year. I’m happy but I’m also so happy I carried on.”

Cavendish, riding for Astana Qazaqstan, emphasised the emotional and physical journey he has been on. He expressed relief at the thought of no longer having to starve himself or leave his family behind. “I know I soon won’t have to starve myself anymore, I won’t have to leave Peta and the kids anymore. I’m very excited about that. I’ve got exciting things for the future. Even during my career, I got such a buzz out of trying to help other people go faster, showing different things.”

Cavendish and his team are focused on the upcoming stages, particularly the flat 231-kilometre leg from Piacenza to Turin on Monday, which is likely to offer the first opportunity for a sprint finish. He aims to secure his 35th stage win, having equalled Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins during the 2021 Tour.

Mark Cavendish
(Photo Credit: Getty)

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it was possible to win,” Cavendish stated, his ambition momentarily overshadowing his emotions. “Fundamentally that’s our job as cyclists, to try to win. Realistically there are five or six chances, so we’ve come here to try to do it. I think we’ve got everything in place to try to do it but so does everyone else. I don’t have anything to lose, it’s not like playing roulette. If I don’t win, I won’t lose 34 Tour stages. I’ve won 34 stages at the Tour and the most number of stages along with the great Eddy Merckx. I’m just trying for more, if that’s one more, two more or 10 more, it doesn’t matter. We have a job to do, which is to try to win. That’s how we’ll approach it.”

Reflecting on his legacy, Cavendish said, “I said before I started my career, if I could ever be in a book of names of riders that meant something, the big riders in the history of cycling, if my name is in that book. I’d be happy. As I’ve grown up, and obviously now have children, I see how they’re inspired by not just the cycling heroes or life heroes. That changes your perspective on your position as a sports person. I grew up idolising some bike riders and I got to race with some of those people and I got to know some of those people. They made a significant impact on me.”

He acknowledged the impact he has had on the sport and future generations, stating, “I understand now that you know I’m fortunate to be in a position of inspiring, not just a generation but a few generations, adults and kids. If I’ve left an impact on them that helps motivate them, then that’s what’s important.”