The 35-year-old spent the 2020 season with Bahrain-McLaren but expressed fears that his career might be drawing to a close in an interview immediately after Gent-Wevelgem.
Cavendish’s contract with Bahrain was not renewed, but on Saturday morning Deceuninck-QuickStep announced that he would re-join the team for the 2021 campaign. Shortly before the announcement, Cavendish had teased the news by posting a photograph of a pack of wolves on social media.
“I can’t explain how delighted I am to be joining Deceuninck-QuickStep. I have never hidden my affection for my time with the team and to me this genuinely feels like I am coming home,” Cavendish said in a statement released by Deceuninck-QuickStep.
“As well as the incredible group of riders, I can’t wait to start working again with the staff, most of which were here during my first spell and were part of one of the most successful periods of my career, an era that I am immensely proud of.
“Even with an extremely difficult and disrupted season this year, they have shown how strong and unified they are, and I am hoping to add to even more. I can’t wait to be back in the Wolfpack.”
Cavendish’s first spell with QuickStep came immediately after his short tenure with Team Sky and he won 44 races during his time on the team, including three stages of the Tour de France, and five on the 2013 Giro d’Italia, where he added the points classification. He also won the British national title in 2013 and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in 2015.
Cavendish left for Dimension Data ahead of the 2016 campaign, when he won four stages of the Tour and took silver in the omnium at the Rio Olympics. The Manxman was hampered by Epstein Barr Virus in the following years, and his last victory came on the Dubai Tour at the beginning of 2018.
“Us and Mark share many beautiful memories and have a history that goes a long way back. During his three-year spell with the team, he didn’t just claim dozens of victories for the team, he showed amazing panache and what an incredibly dedicated team player he is,” said Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere.
The Deceuninck-QuickStep sprint roster already features Sam Bennett, winner of two stages and the green jersey at this year’s Tour, as well as the emerging Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen, who is still recovering from the injuries he suffered in an horrific crash on the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne.
Although Cavendish didn’t win a race during the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season, he contributed to the Bahrain lead-out train and was also on the offensive in the Classics in October. He told Het Nieuwsblad at the time that he hoped to carry on racing "for a few more seasons." Cavendish is only the second signing Deceuninck-QuickStep have made for 2021 after Josef Cerny, who joins from CCC Team.
“We are happy to have him return to our family, as he is a leader and brings across a wealth of experience that he can share with our young riders, but at the same time we are confident he still has something to give to the team,” said Lefevere.
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