Mark Cavendish makes it three stage wins in a row in Turkey — so is he really back?

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  • Mark Cavendish
    Mark Cavendish
    British professional road racing cyclist
Mark Cavendish - Mark Cavendish makes it three stage wins in a row in Turkey — so is he really back? - GETTY IMAGES
Mark Cavendish - Mark Cavendish makes it three stage wins in a row in Turkey — so is he really back? - GETTY IMAGES

Having waited 1,159 days for a race win, Mark Cavendish made it three in three days at the Tour of Turkey on Wednesday.

The Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter, who took his first victory since the 2018 Dubai Tour on Monday, signalled his growing confidence by launching his sprint early on Tuesday, jumping from the wheel of Alpecin-Fenix’s Jasper Philipsen with 175 metres to go and leaving his rivals in his wake, before on Wednesday making it a hat-trick of stages.

It was the first time Cavendish, the 2011 road world champion and 30-time Tour de France stage winner, had won races on three consecutive days since the Tour of Qatar in 2013 and it allowed him to extend his overall lead of the race to 12 seconds going into Thursday's hilly stage five.

“It's nice,” Cavendish said on Wednesday. “It's irrelevant how many wins are in a row, it's just nice to win again. It's nice that the team believe in me.”

After his second win on Tuesday, Cavendish admitted that he may lack some of the confidence he had during his pomp, but that he had regained some of the swagger he once had.

“I don’t think it gives me as much confidence as I used to have, but it definitely gives me confidence in myself, more than any kind of swagger, I guess,” Cavendish said.

“The fact that I won again gives me a lot of confidence, especially as it’s for the first time in five years or so that I’ve claimed back-to-back stages in a race," The Briton said. "Doing it in the leader’s jersey makes it even more special."

On Monday, Cavendish had won in similar circumstances, ending his three-year wait for a victory.

Cavendish has suffered a series of setbacks since his last big year in 2016 when he won the world Madison title, four stages of the Tour de France (spending a day in the leader's yellow jersey), Olympic omnium silver and finished second at the road world championships. He lost the best part of two seasons to Epstein-Barr virus, broke his shoulder after crashing out of the Tour de France in 2017 and also suffered with depression, something he revealed in an interview with Telegraph Sport last year.

It looked last autumn as if he might have run out of road. In a tearful interview after Ghent-Wevelgem Cavendish admitted he did not know whether he would race again, with his contract at Bahrain-McLaren coming to an end and coronavirus wreaking havoc with the season.

Jason and Laura Kenny to lead British team at Ghent open track meeting
Jason and Laura Kenny to lead British team at Ghent open track meeting

However, he agreed a contract with his old Belgian team, Deceuninck-Quick Step, where he spent three very successful seasons between 2013 and 2015.

And he has been getting closer and closer to his first win since the Dubai Tour in 2018. The 35 year-old finished on the podium at Scheldeprijs last week.

On Monday Cavendish paid tribute to his team manager Patrick Lefevere. “Some people didn’t think I could get back to winning, but he did and for that I am grateful,” he said. “Just to get back to winning after what I’ve been through in the last couple of years is truly incredible. To win again was emotional and to hug all my teammates after the finish was amazing.”

Analysis: Next stop Tour de France for Cavendish?

By Tom Cary

Cavendish’s first win in over three years was greeted with huge enthusiasm throughout cycling, a sport which reveres its great champions. The Manx rider, second only to Eddy Merckx in terms of Tour de France stage wins and a former world road champion, is one of the greatest sprinters in history and no one wanted to see his career end before he got back to winning ways.

Of course there will be questions now as to what Cavendish 2.0 might be capable of. Could he grow in confidence and become a force in cycling again? Could he — whisper it — add to his 30 Tour stage wins?

It is far too soon to speculate about such matters. The Tour of Turkey is one thing, the Tour de France another. Cavendish needs to to win a lot more races, and against the best sprinters in the world, before Deceuninck-Quick Step would even contemplate taking him. They already have the top sprinter in the world in Ireland’s Sam Bennett on their roster (it will be interesting to see whether Deceuninck-Quick Step choose to keep them apart in the coming weeks). Plus Cavendish will be 36 next month. Time is very much against him.

But the manner in which he won on Monday was encouraging, showing great timing and a good jump as he surged past Greipel to take Philipsen’s wheel, before powering into the lead right on the line.

If he never wins another race, Cavendish can be proud that he fought back from so much adversity to return to the winners’ enclosure. Whatever happens from here, he has already won his biggest battle.