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    Mark Cavendish Returns

    Welcome Home, Cav!

    One of the most thrilling sights in cycling over the past 15 years has been Mark Cavendish, back arched, eyes laser-focused on the finish line, sprinting toward yet another victory. And here at Specialized, we are so proud to have this legendary sprinter back in the family. The charismatic Brit, who won the 2011 world road championship on our S-Works Venge, will never forget that 30 percent of his 146 career victories came riding one of our bikes with the Quick-Step team from 2013 to 2015. Now, five years on, he has returned to the family at Deceuninck-Quick-Step. “There was only one place I wanted to come,” Cavendish said. “Otherwise, I’d have stopped racing.”

    Many thought that the aging “Manx Missile” was on the verge of retirement at the end of the 2020 season. After finishing the October 11 Gent–Wevelgem classic in 74th place, he teared up in the mixed zone, confessing to a Belgian reporter that it might have been the final race of his career. One reason for Cavendish’s pessimism was his lack of results since he contracted Epstein-Barr in early 2017 combined with a series of frightening crashes. As a result, he won only two races in the past four years.

    When contacted by Specialized in December, a now-healthy Cavendish said, “First and foremost, I want to enjoy racing again . . . I want to be part of this team, not have the team resting on my shoulders. I know I can win again. I know I have the best team and the best equipment to do that.”

    Reminiscing about his previous spell racing with us at Team Quick-Step, Cavendish said, “I had a third of my professional wins in the three years I was with Specialized last time. There was one bike I wanted to ride . . . and that first Venge VIAS with integrated cables was totally focused on aerodynamics. Although I’ve had nice times and had results since, I was never as happy as I was back then.”

    Indeed, the Belgian team’s manager Patrick Lefevere said recently, “During Mark’s 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!”

    After leaving the Specialized family, Cavendish said, “I’ve always been a little bit jealous . . . I can’t say the bikes I’ve used since have been bad bikes; they’re good bikes, but a Specialized is a Specialized, you know. It’s built for racing more than selling the bikes; it’s about winning races.”

    Regarding the Tarmac SL7 that he’ll ride in 2021, Cavendish said, “It still keeps that aggressive geometry of racing and performing, and that works well with both my mental and physical characteristics. It’s about crossing the finishing line first, it’s about aggression. Ultimately, I can say I feel like a neo-pro, I really do, going to my dream team with dream equipment. I’m 35 years old and I’m excited like a kid!”

    Besides testing the latest Tarmac, Cavendish has surprised himself with the efficacy of the new S-Works Power with Mirror saddle. “When you guys first started doing these short saddles, I was like, I’ll never use a time trial saddle on the road, and I never did,” he said. “But when we were doing a bike fit the other day and it was like, why don’t you try it? Okay, just for the look—and I was like, wow! Just by looking at it I never thought I’d fit to that saddle, because I’ve always moved around a lot on the saddle. And straightaway I felt a difference. It’s also important to have a softer saddle, especially in your 30s. I’m happy I just tried it.”

    So, what can we expect from Mark Cavendish in 2021? Team manager Lefevere said, “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.” Given his tremendous determination, knowledge and skills, that “something” will likely include a road captain’s role, being in the mix on any number of sprint finishes—and bringing even more panache back to the team.