Cavendish: I'm not desperate for Tour de France record, but it gives me a target

Mark Cavendish has said he's 'not desperate' to break Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage victories but it has become the primary target and motivation in his career.

Cavendish joined up with his Dimension Data teammates in South Africa this week for their first training camp of the off-season, where plans and objectives were laid out for 2018 and beyond.

"There’s really an opportunity for Mark to be the guy that can win more stages in the Tour de France than anyone else, so that’s going to be a big focus for us," said team manager Doug Ryder.

Cavendish won 20 stages of the Tour in the space of four editions from 2008 to 2011, and has added 10 in the past six editions, though he missed the chance to add to his tally as he crashed out early on in 2014 and 2017. He is currently two clear of Bernard Hinault on the all-time list but needs four more to tie with Merckx and five to become the outright record-holder.

"It doesn't matter to me. At end of day there's no one in the world who has more respect for the Tour de France than I do. It doesn't matter to me to reach a certain number of stages wins – at the end of the day one stage in the Tour de France will make someone’s career. I’ve been fortunate to have been on incredible teams that have helped me amass my 30 wins," Cavendish said.

"Why it's kind of a goal now is because it's kind of reachable."

Cavendish explained that, while the statistic isn't important in and of itself, it has become something to aim towards on a palmares that already includes stage wins and leader's jerseys in all three Grand Tours, world titles on the road and track, and a Monument.

"I guess I'm fortunate I've done everything I can do within my physical realm that I can do in cycling,” he said. “I'm at a loss to set targets unless I repeat what I've done. This gives me another target. If you haven't got targets you're not moving forward. My whole career has been about moving forward.

"There's no point beating around the bush, for sponsors it's a good thing, because if you achieve the target with certain sponsors around they benefit from that.

"On a personal level, it's really just a target. It's not something I'm desperate to get; it's another target that helps me move forward.”

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