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Brian Holm: I'm glad Mark Cavendish will get a proper send-off from the sport

Brian Holm (left), Mark Cavendish (centre) and Bernhard Eisel line up for Team Columbia-HTC at the 2009 Tour de France in Monaco
Brian Holm (left), Mark Cavendish (centre) and Bernhard Eisel line up for Team Columbia-HTC at the 2009 Tour de France in Monaco (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Deceuninck-QuickStep sports director Brian Holm has told the Danish media that he's looking forward to working with Mark Cavendish again at the Belgian WorldTour team next season. The British sprinter's contract with Bahrain McLaren was not renewed for next year, and he'll now link up with Holm once more at Patrick Lefevere's team, for which he also rode from 2013 to 2015.

Holm and Cavendish's DS-rider relationship was established at T-Mobile when Cavendish rode for them as a stagiaire in 2006 before joining permanently in 2007, and continued as the team became Team Columbia and HTC-Highroad. The two then went their separate ways when the team closed down at the end of 2011, when Holm moved to Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Cavendish went to Team Sky.

A year later, the pair reunited for three seasons at Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but Cavendish left in 2016 for Dimension Data, and then joined Bahrain McLaren this season.

"It's the return home of the prodigal son," Holm told Danish cycling website Feltet.dk in an interview published on Monday. "I'm glad that he's now going to get a proper send-off from the sport when he stops, and that his last race isn't going to be this year's Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, where he was forgotten by his team and we had to give him a lift to the airport."

Cavendish, said Holm, will be a useful addition to the squad in multiple ways, and feels that a new approach could count in his favour.

"My thinking is to have him join the team as though he's a neo-pro, and get him working for the team at races from 'kilometre zero' to make him stronger," Holm said. "Then, later in the season, he could have the chance to go for wins for himself.

"Mark will take pride in working for the team, and will relish taking on a new role. He just wants to race his bike, even if it's riding for one of the young guys on the team, like Mikkel Honoré," he continued.

"He'll be capable of working in the lead-out [for the team's other sprinters] if he has the legs, and he also always has ideas in the team meetings before stages and races. He also knows how bunch sprints work inside out, and knows what's going to happen before it does," the Danish retired pro said.

"Mark has been under a huge amount of pressure as a sprinter for a number of years, which has perhaps got to him a bit. It's sometimes easy to forget how pressurised a role being a sprinter is.

"That's what happened to Marcel Kittel," Holm continued, referring to the German sprinter, who also raced for QuickStep, and who retired from the sport at the age of just 31. "He couldn't handle the pressure, and it broke him."

Holm added that he didn't think at this point that Cavendish – who's been handed a one-year contract – was likely to ride this year's Tour de France, which he hasn't ridden since 2018, despite his 30 stage victories at La Grande Boucle.

'He's bloody funny'

However, it's not only the performance aspect that Cavendish will bring to Deceuninck-QuickStep, added Holm. The 35-year-old rider has other qualities that the team will benefit from, too.

"When you've got Mark on your team, you look forward to going to bike races," he said. "He's bloody funny, and so it just makes life that bit easier when you can have a laugh about things.

"All of his teammates always end up loving him. He's a bit like Lars Bak in that respect," said Holm, comparing Cavendish to the now-retired Bak, who will head up the new Uno-X women's team in 2022.

"I remember once in 2010 when Mark said in an interview that he didn't think that André Greipel would ever win a stage of the Tour de France," said Holm, recalling just one of what he said were a number of stories he had about Cavendish.

"The following year, Greipel beat him by half a metre on a stage at the Tour, and subsequently Mark said to me while getting a massage: 'Brian, sometimes you need to tell me to shut up, as now I look like an idiot.' So he has that ability to laugh at himself, and that's important."