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Mark Cavendish joins Astana-Qazaqstan for 2023

'Astana-Qazaqstan is going to be a great place to be successful': Tour de France sprint legend finally books in with Kazakh crew.

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Astana-Qazaqstan finally secured the signature of Tour de France sprint legend Mark Cavendish.

Alexander Vinokourov’s team confirmed Tuesday that Cavendish signed for 2023, closing a long-running saga over the Manxman’s future.

“Astana-Qazaqstan is going to be a great place to be successful, with a strong team led by Alexander, a champion on the bike and a gentleman off the bike,” Cavendish said.

“I’ve enjoyed a long career already, but the joy of riding my bike and the hunger to continue winning are as bright as ever. So I’m looking forward to being part of a successful team, whether working with the team for wins, crossing the line first myself, or cheering on my teammates. As always, the objective will be for us to stand on the top podium.”

Also read: The speculation continues: Cavendish again spotted with Astana-Qazaqstan

The news Tuesday closes a long and winding chapter concerning the 37-year-old’s future.

After being put out of contract by Quick-Step at the close of 2022, the Manxman was strongly tied to the B&B Hotels team for 2023, only for the project to dramatically dissolve.

He was since also named alongside Human Powered Health, Israel-Premier Tech and EF Education-EasyPost before all evidence pointed toward a move to Astana-Qazaqstan.

Reports out of Gazzetta dello Sport indicated support from Astana’s bike partner Wilier was essential in sealing the deal that would put “Cav” and his British national stripes on top of the Italian-made bikes.

‘The arrival of a top sprinter in our team is kind of a challenge for us’

A move to Astana puts Cavendish back in the running to break the Tour de France stage-win record of 34 that he shares with Eddy Merckx.

But is it achievable?

“Mark Cavendish doesn’t need any presentation. He is the best sprinter of all time, and I am happy to welcome Mark in Astana-Qazaqstan Team,” Vinokourov said.

“The arrival of a top sprinter in our team is kind of a challenge for us, but we are ready for it. We see new ways and new possibilities.”

The typically climber-focused Astana-Qazaqstan has never seen a top-flight sprinter on its roster, and Cavendish came out of 2022 with “only” five victories after being shaded out at Quick-Step by Fabio Jakobsen.

Astana-Qazaqstan is also heavily rumored to also be signing fast-finisher Cees Bol as a lead-out man for 2023. Cavendish and the Dutch fast-finisher were both spotted at an Astana training camp over Christmas and had been seen as a two-rider sprint package since rumors began.

A contract with Bol has not yet been confirmed, and the Astana-Qazaqstan roster is now full at the UCI-mandated 30 riders.

It is possible for team brass to send a younger rider back down to the development team to make space for Bol, otherwise Cavendish will be looking to rouleurs like Gianni Moscon for any sprint support.

Cavendish’s arrival at Astana-Qazaqstan comes perfectly timed after the team was cut adrift of stage-racing captains. Vincenzo Nibali retired over the winter, and Miguel Ángel López saw his contract dissolved for alleged links to a doping ring.

Vinokourov will be looking for Cavendish to help his team turn a corner after it suffered a shocker 2022 season that saw just five victories.

“The goals are still the same – victories in any kind of race: classics, stages in different stage races, and of course, in the grand tours,” Vinokourov said.

“Mark still has a big desire to win and we are going to support this feeling with all our forces in all kinds of races.”