Mark Cavendish: it was either Patrick Lefevere and Deceuninck-QuickStep or I stopped running
Mark Cavendish has revealed that he would have retired from professional cycling at the end of 2020 had he not made a one-year contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep. In an excerpt from Cavendish’s latest autobiography, published in The temperature This weekend, he also brings up Rod Ellingworth and how his former team boss had stopped believing in him after a disappointing 2020.
The sprinter also alludes to his bad relationship with Doug Ryder by stating: clinical depression – a straight cookbook recipe, easy to follow for total disintegration.
Cavendish’s road career was on the brink of collapse in late 2020 when Ellingworth told him Bahrain McLaren would not be renewing his contract. Ellingworth had previously been one of the only WorldTour bosses at the top of the sport to want to give Cavendish another chance after the sprinter endured three bad years due to health issues and the resulting lack of form. . Ellingworth had accepted the idea of saving Cavendish’s career in the hopes that he would return to his best level in 2020.
However, with no wins under his belt all year and with younger sprinters dominating the scene, it looked like Cavendish’s time in the sport seemed over. Still, a tearful interview after Gand-Wevelgem – a race many suspected to be his last – prompted several teams to contact the sprinter directly. However, in his book, Tour de Force: My historic Tour de France, the veteran insists he only had eyes for one team – Patrick Lefevere’s Deceuninck-QuickStep.
“To each I responded with a variation on the same message: I really appreciated that they wanted me, but I needed to talk to Patrick. In fact, I realized that the introspection that had taken place over the previous hours had brought me to a brutal conclusion: it was either Patrick and Deceuninck-QuickStep or I stopped running, ”wrote Cavendish.
The couple, who had worked together between 2013 and 2015, then met in Belgium at the team’s headquarters, but when Lefevere said he had no budget left – not even enough to pay the minimum wage of the Cavendish cycling – the rider needed to find an outside sponsor to essentially pay for his place on the team.
“Pay me minimum wage,” I blurted out, not letting him finish. “It’s not about the money, because it will come when I win for you.”
Patrick smiles apologetically. “Mark, I have a place on the team. . . but no money. Not even to pay the minimum wage.
Cavendish has had an extremely successful year with the team, winning multiple Tour de France stages and tying Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 career stage wins. After securing a first Tour victory since 2016, he uses his book to explain some of the emotions he went through and what his return meant in terms of securing his legacy.
“I can’t claim to have been in a worse position than a lot of other people over the past few years, especially since Covid struck. Athletes can be so engrossed in our little bubbles that we become selfish. We were lucky because we were able to move on with our lives when so many other people had to face such tremendous upheaval. However, I have lived through hell over the past few years. The people who have always been there for me are gone. Even Rod, the guy who was my confidant for 20 years, stopped believing in me.
“But luckily there were people who were still there, and neither was my wife. Peta is a very strong personality, extremely supportive, and she has always believed, much more than I sometimes. Peta pushed me to keep going as I battled illness, misdiagnosis, injury, depression, loss of shape. I know it might sound like bravado, but I honestly think if I can come back from setbacks like I had, anyone can.
Securing my inheritance has been the main reason I have continued to run this year. I knew I still had it in me, just as I knew every year I kept running and didn’t win, which damaged that legacy.
Tour de Force: My historic Tour de France by Mark Cavendish is out next week and can be pre-ordered now.