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A photograph shared with VeloNews by the source photographer and circulating on social media shows what looks to be the Tour de France supremo loading luggage into an Astana vehicle at Alicante airport, Spain.
The Costa Blancan transport hub is regularly used by pros en route to team training camps in favored locations further north around Denia and Altea. VeloNews was informed by the photographer that the image was captured at around 10 pm, Friday night.
The image – whether of Cavendish or not – reawakens the months-long speculation over the 37-year-old’s future.
Out of contract with Quick-Step, the “Manx missile” was strongly tied to the B&B Hotels project of Jérôme Pineau disintegrated before it disintegrated due to sponsor withdrawals.
Cavendish was then uttered in the same breath as seemingly every team with space on the roster, from EF Education-EasyPost and Human Powered Health through Israel Premier Tech and Ineos Grenadiers.
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The most recent – and best-founded – rumor regarding Cavendish and the Astana team of Alexander Vinokourov has now been doing the rounds for a month.
Sources close to the Manxman report the fundamentals of a deal for 2023 have been done, with only wrinkles around his plethora of personal sponsors left to be ironed out.
Cavendish and potential leadout man Cees Bol, who exited DSM this winter, were also been spotted at the Astana pre-Christmas team camp.
Astana-Qazaqstan currently has 29 riders on its roster, one short of the UCI limit of 30.
However, a reshuffling of youth riders back to the development team would open the space for both Bol and Cavendish for the new year – and leave the “Missile” poised to break the Tour de France stage win record that he shares with Eddy Merckx at 34.
Astana-Qazaqstan team officials are still yet to comment on the potential new recruits.