Mark Cavendish was left in shock after seeing plans for what he says will be a “very, very, very hard” Tour de France next year.
Cavendish will take on the challenge with the aim of securing a 35th stage victory to make him the standalone record holder for most wins. He currently sits at the top of the all-time list alongside Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.
The route for 2024
includes two individual time trials, four mountain-top finishes and a series of gravel sections to navigate on Stage 9.
Despite telling Eurosport that it is “nice to be back” after previously thinking he had raced the Tour de France for the final time, Cavendish admits there is a lot of hard work ahead.
“I’m a little bit in shock after seeing the presentation. I really thought last year was hard. This is, I can’t even, it’s a very, very, very hard Tour de France. Very hard indeed, that’s for sure,” he said.
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Eight flat stages have been included in the plans, but the sprinter was quick to point out how that does not necessarily play into his hands.
“When they write flat day, that doesn’t mean a sprint. Just means it’s not in the mountains. It doesn’t mean a sprint, so there’s not eight sprints,” Cavendish said.
“Hopefully the third one will be there in Turin. So, we just get through the Italian Apennine first! That’s ok. I lived many years close to Florence and I know those roads really well.”
The Astana Qazaqstan team has enjoyed a refresh with German sprinter Rudiger Selig signing a one-year contract to join Cavendish and co.
Selig joins a strong line-up of lead-out riders, which also include Michael Mørkøv and Cees Bol.
Speaking about the team dynamic, Cavendish says cycling ability only counts for a fraction of what is needed for success on a Grand Tour.
“I always say the best thing for lead out is commitment. I had commitment this year. We were unfortunate obviously, we couldn’t try a lot more. I went home with a broken collarbone.
“We got really, really close this year. We worked well together and we’re looking forward to building on that with the new riders next year,” he said.
As well new routes and challenges during the event, the Tour de France finale will be drastically different next year, with the race coming to a close in Nice for the very first time.
The famous finish at the Champs-Élysées has been scrapped due to Paris hosting the Olympics just a week later, so the French capital will be in full swing of its preparations at the same time as the Tour takes place.
Thinking about the change, Cavendish said: “It’s strange but it’s going to be very, very special to watch the Olympic Games in Paris, not just in cycling but in every sport.
“It’s weird not to be there on the Tour but we can enjoy Paris in many other ways afterwards.”
The Tour de France begins in Florence, Italy on Saturday, June 29 2024 and ends three weeks later on Sunday, July 21 2024.
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