Britain’s Mark Cavendish has delayed plans to retire and will race in next year’s Tour de France.
The 38-year-old sprinter, who announced his retirement in May, has signed a new one-year contract with his Astana-Qazaqstan team.
He will have the chance to break the record of 34 Tour stage wins which he shares with legend Eddy Merckx.
“I love riding my bike,” Cavendish said. “I spoke to the kids; they said carry on.”
He added in a video on his team’s social media: “So here we are – just one more year.”
The Tour begins in Florence, Italy, on 29 June, but Cavendish will race the whole season for Astana.
He was forced out of this year’s Tour on stage eight by a crash in which he sustained a broken collarbone.
“Obviously it wasn’t the finish I hoped for, crashing at the Tour de France, but it is what it is,” he said.
“We grew incredibly as a team at Astana – it felt like a real family. So much so, the first thing Vino (Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov) said when I crashed was ‘Why don’t you do another year?’
“[I said] ‘No, no.’ [It was not just] coming back from a collarbone, but coming back from another injury… I was ready [to retire].
“I was at peace, but the more I’ve ridden this summer… I just love riding my bike.”
‘A true champion should not end his career that way’
Cavendish returned to form following a difficult period from 2017 to 2020 in which he suffered from injury and illness.
He nearly quit the sport as he struggled with his mental health, but in 2021, at an age when many riders would have chosen to retire, he returned to the Belgian Quick Step team to win four stages at that year’s Tour.
He equalled Merckx’s record and came within a couple of feet of breaking it on the blue riband final sprint stage on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
But after being left out of the 2022 Tour and seemingly out of contract at the end of that year – after a French team he had planned to join folded – he joined Kazakhstan’s Astana at the last minute for 2023 and won brilliantly on the final stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Rome.
Vinokourov said: “There is no secret that the Tour de France and a stage win there was the main goal for Mark. And on stage seven he was very close to breaking his historical record.
“I believe that a true champion should not end his career this way.
“So I asked Mark if in a few years he would regret that he didn’t try again, and, in turn, suggested to reconsider his decision, to stay for another season, and still to try to win a stage in the Tour de France.
“It won’t be easy to better the record he shares with Eddy Merckx – it would be a historic achievement – but we have a chance, and we have to use it.”
Analysis – the final, final chapter?
Cavendish’s career has been illustrious and he is widely regarded as the best sprinter of all time.
His explosive brand of riding in the final metres of flatter, sprint stages has seen him win more Tour stages than anyone else, other than Merckx.
The Belgian, whose victories came during the 1960s and 70s, won on all types of stages, including mountain stages, on his way to winning the overall yellow jersey a record-equalling five times.
Cavendish is a very different type of rider. An out-and-out sprint specialist, Cavendish focuses purely on winning on the flat roads in towns and cities.
He dominated the sprinting scene for many years. Can he win in the Tour one last time?