Mark Cavendish, one of Britain’s most successful cyclists, will retire at the end of the season.
In 2021 he equaled the legendary Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins in the Tour de France.
During a press conference at the Giro d’Italia, Cavendish, 38, said: “Cycling has been my life for over 25 years.
“He has taught me so much about life, dedication, loyalty, sacrifice and perseverance, important things to pass on now as a parent.”
He added: “Motorcycling has given me opportunities to see the world, meet amazing people who are involved and not involved in the sport, many of whom I call friends.
“Today is my son Casper’s fifth birthday; it’s a day off and now I can spend it with them. Now it’s important to be there for every birthday, every school concert, important that I can be there for to them”.
The brilliant career with a fairytale ending
Cavendish enjoyed a brilliant career as a sprinter, taking victories on the flattest and fastest stages of the races, particularly the Grand Tours.
He has won 161 races since 2005 and two green jerseys on the Tour.
Cavendish’s other major achievements include an omnium silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2011 World Road Championship rainbow jersey, the 2009 Milan-San Remo one-day classic ‘monument’, 16 wins of stages in the Giro and three in the Vuelta a España. .
He is currently racing for Astana Qazaqstan in the Giro, which ends in Rome on Sunday.
Cavendish has been plagued by injury and illness since 2017, hinting at the end of the 2020 season that he could retire.
But after a return to training the following year he won four more Tour stages and the green jersey in his second stint with the successful Quick Step team, which helped reinvigorate his career.
Cavendish and his family were victims of a violent robbery at home in 2021.
He was omitted from the Quick Step Tour team the following year, after which he signed for Astana Qazaqstan until 2023.
He will attempt to break the Tour’s record for stage wins in this year’s race, which begins in Bilbao, Spain, on July 1.
He added: “It’s a perfect opportunity to say with absolute joy that this will be my last season as a professional cyclist.
“Right now there’s no need to talk about my short and long term plans – I’ll always be a cyclist, that’s for sure.
“But for this last period I would like to enjoy doing what has made me happy for the last 25 years, and that is simply running.”
The Manx missile
Cavendish, from the Isle of Man, showed promise as a BMX and mountain bike racer, and was then part of the new era of investment in cycling in Britain, which saw British cycling dominate the track cycling at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Cavendish began his professional career in 2005 in a feeder team for T-Mobile, winning his first Tour stage in 2008 for Team Columbia.
He was known throughout his career as the “Manx Missile” due to his finishing speed during bunch sprints.
At 5ft 7in, he has a low center of gravity and can adopt an aerodynamically advantageous position on the bike during powerful bursts of speed.
Cavendish dominated the sprint for many years and is considered a major influence on the younger riders in the peloton, including up-and-coming British talent such as Quick Step’s Ethan Vernon.
Cavendish is known to have a fiery character on and occasionally off the bike, and during the 2021 Tour he was filmed berating a team mechanic before a stage.
Former Quick Step coach Tom Steels told BBC Sport last year: “When he gets off the team bus, you never know if he’s going to come back in five minutes like a wild bull because there’s something bad with the bike
“But you can always talk to him and once it’s fixed it’s over. It’s never personal, but you never know how he might react.”
Cavendish is immensely popular in the peloton and fiercely defends teammates who receive criticism.
Former team-mate and 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas paid tribute, saying: “[Cavendish] he told me at the start of the Giro [about his retirement]. I really didn’t believe it and thought I would continue.
“He’s the greatest sprinter of all time when you look at his record. It’s been an honor to ride with him and be teammates with him for 25 years, it shows how old we are now. It’s amazing.
“What an incredible run he’s had and he’s yet to get that Tour record and hopefully win a stage here.”
British Cycling performance director Stephen Park said: “Cav is arguably the best sprinter in the sport and will be remembered by fans around the world for his 53 Grand Tour stage wins.
“What stands out about Cav as a sportsman is the overwhelming sense of pride he showed every time he pulled on both the Great Britain Cycling Team and British National Champion jerseys, a quality we want to instill in every member of our team.”