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Updated: Mark Cavendish to Astana-Qazaqstan? Sources suggest the deal is done

Gazzetta dello Sport reports Sunday that Tour de France sprint ace signs up with Astana for 2023.

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Updated December 18: Reports out of Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday indicate Mark Cavendish reached an agreement with Astana Qazaqstan for a 2023 contract.

The Italian outlet wrote Sunday that the Tour de France supersprinter signed a deal with Alexander Vinokourov and his WorldTour team, ending the long speculation over the 37-year-old’s future.

Cavendish had been left afloat earlier this month. His time with Quick-Step came to a close this season, and the B&B Hotels project he had been linked to for 2023 sank due to sponsor shortfalls.

A deal with Astana – should it be confirmed – would see Cavendish into his 20th pro season and hand him space to score a record-topping 35th Tour de France stage victory.

Gazzetta writes that Astana bike partner Willier played a crucial part in the contract negotiations. The Italian brand is seeking a new superambassador after the retirement of Vincenzo Nibali and will reportedly contribute heavily to Cavendish’s payroll.

Tteam officials would not comment when contacted by VeloNews.

Stay tuned for updates, but in the meantime, here’s the background:

Cavendish linked with Astana after B&B blowout

PASSO FEDAIA, ITALY - MAY 28: Mark Cavendish of United Kingdom and Team Quick-Step - Alpha Vinyl competes during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022, Stage 20 a 168km stage from Belluno to Marmolada - Passo Fedaia 2052m / #Giro / #WorldTour / on May 28, 2022 in Passo Fedaia, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
Cavendish is looking for a new contract now his time with Quick-Step is done. (Photo: Getty Images)

Everyone’s favorite off-season soap opera saw another dramatic twist this week.

Astana-Qazaqstan emerged as front runner for Mark Cavendish‘s signature after team brass expressed interest in the Tour de France legend and sources suggested a deal was in the works.

The news makes for another episode in a contract saga stretching back to the late summer.

The now-defunct B&B Hotels, Trek-Segafredo, Israel-Premier Tech, and Human Powered Health have all seen a spin in the contact rumor mill as the 37-year-old supersprinter looks for a new team for 2023.

Cavendish’s options are running short after a supposedly near-done deal with the French B&B Hotels squad sank with the team’s shock shuttering last week.

After scoring five more victories with Quick-Step this season, and with “that” history-making 35th Tour de France stage win to chase, Cavendish is reported to be hungry as ever to see a 20th season in the pro peloton.

Yet the “Manx Missile” faces headwinds in his late-hour contract search as teams close their books for the winter or focus on home-developed young talent.

Also read:

Cavendish was thrown a lifeline by the least expected of sources this week.

Astana-Qazaqstan terminated controversy-stalked climber Miguel Ángel López over allegations of a number of misdemeanors, opening a space in the WorldTour crew’s roster for the coming year.

“I thought about Mark right away,” Astana boss Vinokourov told CyclingNews when discussing the close-down of the B&B project.

“I gave him a phone call saying if he was free then we could talk. It’s true he’s what, 35 or 36 [ed. – 37]? But what really matters is if he’s motivated. I won the Olympic Games when I was nearing 40.”

The typically well-informed Italian reporter Ciro Scognamiglio threw further fuel into the fire late Friday night.

“After a talk with a cyclist agent, we understand that Mark Cavendish and Astana seem close to find an agreement for 2023,” the Gazzetta dello Sport journalist wrote.

Could it happen?

Could Cavendish saddle up with Vinokourov at Astana?

With both Nibali and López gone, Astana needs new leaders in 2023. (Photo: Sara Cavallini/Getty Images)

Astana’s WorldTour licence guarantees “Vino” and Co. a start at the Tour de France and offers Cavendish an eye on the Merckx-beating 35th victory. It’s a luxury shared by Ag2r-Citroën, another WorldTour team with space on its books, and TotalEnergies, which has room to spare and an auto wildcard to use.

After losing Vincenzo Nibali and booting “Superman” López, Astana-Qazaqstan needs a new centerpoint after a shocker six-win 2022 that Vinokourov described as “rock bottom.”

Yet Astana hasn’t seen a top sprinter in its lifetime, and Cavendish would be calling on a climber-shaped leadout train unless the team invests more this winter.

And does Cavendish have a taste for Wilier, the Italian brand beneath Astana-Qazaqstan’s racers?

The Manxman is notoriously picky about his sprint machines, and equipment could play a factor. TotalEnergies’ Peter Sagan-secured deal with Specialized may put the French team in with some hope of seeing Cavendish alongside the Slovak next season.

The Cavendish contractual soap opera is still in full swing. Stay tuned.

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