While Patrick Lefevere seems unsure about giving Mark Cavendish a place in the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team for the Tour de France and a new contract for 2023, Bradley Wiggins told Cyclingnews at the Giro d'Italia that he would sign Cavendish if he was a team manager.
"Until someone dislodges Cav from that top sprinter's spot, then we shouldn't even have to debate about his future. It's fucking obvious he still deserves a place in the peloton," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
"He's still winning stages at the Giro and races like Milano-Torino, so surely teams will want him. I'd want him in my team if I was a team manager.
"I don't understand why Patrick Lefevere doesn't say that Cav can have a contract for as long as he wants one. But if Patrick Lefevere won't give Cav a new contract, then Rod Ellingworth has to take him on at Ineos Grenadiers and give him a perfect send-off. Why not?" Wiggins said, mischievously knowing his tongue-in-cheek remarks will spark debate.
Lefevere is currently considering Cavendish's place at QuickStep-AlphaVinyl for 2023 after reports that Tim Merlier will join the team from Alpecin-Fenix to satisfy the new Belgian title sponsor Soudal. Fabio Jakobsen is also under contract for 2023, while Cavendish's contract ends this year.
The QuickStep-AlphaVinyl sprinter's spot for the Tour de France is still to be decided. Cavendish was selected for the Giro d'Italia, while Fabio Jakobsen is following a training and racing plan for the Tour de France and is likely to secure selection if he proves he is on form and competitive in the weeks ahead.
As in 2021 when Sam Bennett was injured, Cavendish could still be selected and have a chance of targeting Eddy Merckx's stage win record. QuickStep-AlphaVinyl have said the best rider will be selected.
Cavendish understands the logic and intricacies of the rider market and has hired rider agent Martijn Berkhout of SEG Cycling in the hope of finding the best possible contract for 2023 and 2024, be that at QuickStep-AlphaVinyl or elsewhere.
He turned 37 on May 21, while at the Giro d'Italia, but recently told La Gazzetta dello Sport he is convinced he can be competitive for at least two more years.
Cavendish has won 160 races and will fight for a shot at victory when stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia finishes in Treviso on Thursday. He took his 100th career win in the city back in 2013 and showed he had the same sprinting skills and same winning speed by winning stage 3 in Balatonfüred. He was also third in Scalea and third in Cuneo.
"Cav is still winning. He won four stages at the Tour last year and the green points jersey. He's still at the top of his game," Wiggins said.
"Unfortunately the way some teams race the Tour de France now makes it difficult for sprinters to find places in the Tour roster. That shows how competitive the sport is now."
Admiring Cavendish's longevity
Wiggins is at the Giro d'Italia for Eurosport/GCN. He won the Tour de France and Olympic gold medal in 2012 but retired in 2016, aged 36, after winning the Ghent Six with Cavendish in his last competitive race.
His farewell appearances came after the Fancy Bears hacking group's revelation that he had received a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide during his tenure at Team Sky, including immediately before his 2012 Tour de France victory. Wiggins has always denied wrongdoing, insisting he took the medicine for allergy problems.
At the 2016 Ghent Six, Wiggins described Cavendish as a brother despite an often rocky relationship.
"We fight and bicker, but we know each other's strengths. We have a good time together, and we'd do anything for each other," Wiggins said.
He now admires Cavendish's staying power, and chatted to Cavendish after the stage to Cogne.
"Cav has been at the top of his game for 15 years. If we go back to 2007 before the Tour de France Grand Départ in London, he'd already won Scheldeprijs and beaten Robbie McEwen. That's impressive," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
"Racing and sprinting has driven him on because he's done it so intensely, so successfully and with so much love for it all.
"That's why I think it'll be hard for Mark to replace what he gets from cycling with something else and so that's why he races on. I was different in that sense. After winning the Tour de France I wanted normality. Mark is different and is a real winner, as sprinters are," Wiggins continued.
"He could do another year easily, and could perhaps be like British soccer player Ryan Giggs, who played on for years because he was talented and was still hungry. Like with Giggs, nobody wants Cav to retire, we want to see him keep on winning sprints."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.