Mark Cavendish will race in Dimension Data colours again next season after extending his contract, the team has announced, confirming recent rumours that the British sprinter had penned a new deal. Cavendish will also take on a new role within the team, on their Supervisory Board.
"After spending my last three years with Dimension Data I’m delighted to extend my contract, stay with the team that I love and people that I hold dearest to me in the sport. It’s also an honour to be part of a Supervisory Board that will work together to continue the growth of the team in cycling," said Cavendish.
Cavendish's future has been heavily speculated over recent months and it looked like he might leave the South African team, with the relationship with his boss Doug Ryder deteriorating in the second half of the season. Bahrain-Merida expressed their interest and a sponsorship deal with the McLaren motorsport company looked like it might pave the way for a switch of teams.
However, earlier this month La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Cavendish was set to stay at Dimension Data, and the news was officially confirmed on Wednesday evening. In the press release issued by the team, they said that Cavendish's appointment to the advisory board was part of an internal restructure, adding that the "streamlined focus is to match the increased level of competition on the World Tour by ensuring the team’s future sustainability."
The 2018 season has been a very challenging one for Cavendish, who contested just 48 race days this year. The Manxman was affected by injury in the opening part of the season after crashing at three successive races, culminating in a high-speed incident at Milan-San Remo. Cavendish suffered a concussion in the first crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour and then broke a rib in each of the two subsequent incidents.
Following a near two-month break, Cavendish returned to action at the Tour de Yorkshire but struggled to find his form ahead of the Tour de France. He went into the French Grand Tour still hopeful of getting something out of it but left the race at the start of the second week when he missed the time cut on stage 11 to La Rosière.
He made a comeback at the RideLondon-Surrey Classic but pulled out of several races on medical advice before being diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus for the second time in two years. He hasn’t raced since, but is now training again, despite being forced to pull out of the Six Day London this week as he felt he hadn’t had enough time to prepare.
"It’s no secret that both 2017 and 2018 have been very difficult years for me physically due to injury and illness," he said. "The physical fatigue suffered as a result of the Epstein-Barr is terrible but the most difficult part was the impact on my job which is my life and passion; not being able to do that is very difficult to handle and it takes a mental toll on you."
Cavendish explained that, despite his setbacks over the past two seasons, he is still aiming to beat Eddy Merckx's record of 34 Tour de France stage victories.
"The Tour de France record, it’s no secret that it’s the one goal that I have left in cycling. After winning 30 stages in my career another four doesn’t seem that much but I’ve always been the first one to say that winning one stage of the Tour de France is something that makes a rider’s career, so I know how difficult it could be to win another four; but I’m never going to stop trying."
The team did not state how long Cavendish's extension was but previous reports have said that it would be a year.