Mark Cavendish has reached a provisional agreement for a one-year contract with the B&B Hotels-KTM ProTeam for 2023, with an option for a one-year extension, according to reports in French news outlet Ouest France.
The signing is apparently due to be formalised next Wednesday (26 October), the day before the official Tour de France route announcement. However, the team has declined to confirm nor deny the signing.
That race, it would seem, is at the heart of both Cavendish and his new team’s plans. The 37-year-old Manxman still has his sights set on a 35th Tour stage victory, having equalled Eddy Merckx’s record tally of 34 back in 2021. Because B&B Hotels is a ProTeam tier outfit, there is no guarantee of Tour selection. However, it has appeared at the past three editions and has to be confident a fourth is on the cards.
Should Cavendish succeed in beating’s Merckx’s record it would be huge for the Manx rider as well as for the Brittany-based team itself, which until now has come close to a Tour stage victory with riders such as Bryan Coquard, but has yet to cross the line first.
Having endured a number of difficult years at the hands of illness and depression with few notable results, many had written Cavendish off. At the end of 2020 it looked as though he may have ridden his final race, but he was offered a last-chance-saloon reprieve by his former team Quick Step, whose boss Patrick Lefevere professed a soft spot for Cavendish.
Few predicted the incredible comeback that followed in 2021, when Cavendish was given a late place in the Tour de France team after Sam Bennett injured his knee. He went on to win four stages and take the green jersey in Paris.
Lefevere remained unconvinced – despite Cavendish going on to win a Giro stage this year – and he put his eggs in the basket of Fabio Jakobsen who was selected for the Tour over Cavendish, causing a furore among many British fans. It was clear that Lefevere was more invested in Jakobsen for the future, and Cavendish’s contract was not renewed.
Cavendish has always said he just wants to be able to race. The B&B Hotels appointment will offer him that, and quite possibly a last crack at that Merckx record.