The roar beyond the finish line in Konya said as much.
The 35-year-old has won nearly 150 races over the past 15 years but none since February 2018. Epstein Barr virus held him back for many months and it looked like a career that featured so many bangs was about to go out with a whimper as he finished last season without a team or a plan for 2021.
However, since being handed a lifeline by his former team, Deceuninck-QuickStep, Cavendish has slowly but surely proved to be back on an upward trajectory. After podiums at GP Monseré, Coppi e Bartali, and Scheldeprijs, the magic moment finally came on Monday.
“It’s incredible, It’s really really nice. It's super nice,” Cavendish said.
“You never get tired of that feeling.”
After coming to a halt, something of a queue formed around Cavendish, with riders from various teams stopping to offer their congratulations – a measure of his stature in the modern peloton. The warmest embraces, however, were saved for his teammates.
Cavendish raced for QuickStep from 2013 to 2015 and team boss Patrick Lefevere said he had to choose between his head and his heart in deciding whether to give him a chance to relaunch his career. Cavendish did bring in additional sponsorship, so it arguably ending up being both, but either way, it has now paid off.
“Thank you to Deceuninck-QuickStep, my team, and to Patrick especially. Patrick gave me the opportunity to come back,” Cavendish said.
“I know it’s Turkey, it’s not the Tour de France, but to beat Jasper [Philipsen] and André [Greipel] is not easy. I’m just thankful to my team.”
In his three-year wait for a win, it was clear Cavendish had lost none of his forensic eye for detail. His emotional response was highly anticipated but he spent far more time recounting the finer points of the run-in to Konya.
“We actually didn’t do exactly what I wanted with the guys. We still burned up too many guys early. We’re here only with six riders and Fabio [Jakobsen] is not getting deep into the finals, so with just five guys we have to be conservative and we didn’t do it really. But everyone committed, which is the main thing,” he said.
After settling for fourth in a messy sprint on the opening stage, Cavendish rounded the final bend on Monday behind his old rival André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation), who himself was latched onto the Alpecin-Fenix lead-out for Scheldeprijs winner Jasper Philipsen.
“[Shane] Archbold got further in than yesterday then Alvaro [Hodeg] had to guide me in the last kilometre. The other teams had brilliant lead-outs, but we played it patient with Alpecin-Fenix and Israel,” Cavendish said.
“Alvaro stayed calm and delivered me behind those men. We knew given the speed they had into the last corner, that we weren’t going to have the same problem as yesterday with one rider coming up on the inside. I knew if I was on Greipel’s wheel then I’d be in with a shot going into the last couple of hundred metres.
“Actually, Philipsen jumped early, there was a small gap, and I was surprised how quickly I came in the final.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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