Jens Voigt has explained why he thinks Mark Cavendish’s retirement decision makes “perfect sense” – and has shared a story about the sprint great that he will “never forget”.
Cavendish, 38, said that he had “lived an absolute dream” as he announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2023 season.
The 38-year-old, who is currently competing at the Giro d’Italia with Astana Qazaqstan, is expected to chase a record 35th stage win at the Tour de France this summer.
Thomas pays tribute to 'greatest sprinter of all time' Cavendish ahead of retirement
He is currently tied with Belgian great Eddy Merckx on 34.
Cavendish has not won on the road since June last year, although he hinted at a return to form by taking third on Stage 11 at the Giro.
Reflecting on Cavendish’s retirement announcement on the second rest day of the Giro, Eurosport expert Voigt said: “I was exactly 50:50 if he's going to announce one more year, or if he’s going to retire, until he actually said the words…
“Because he's chasing that elusive record with the Tour stages. And not sure if he's going to make it this year, if he's going to do or if he is actually going to win this stage [he needs to break the record].
“On the other side, I completely understand. I mean, look at the pictures. What a happy family he has, happy healthy children, a wonderful wife, wonderful family. It's only fair to think, ‘You know what? I'm fed up with travel and sacrifices’.
“I suppose quality time with the family makes perfect sense.
“This Giro, with so much rain and so many crashes. I mean, if you remember his spectacular crash. He finished fifth on a stage, sliding across the line on his butt cheeks. So maybe that reminded him how bloody hard the sport is and how dangerous it is.
“So bad weather, a tonne of crashes, super hard profile of this Giro. Maybe his body was telling him you just couldn’t do it anymore.”
Cavendish has spent 17 years in the peloton and claimed the points classification at all three Grand Tours, notably at the Tour de France in 2011 and 2021.
He has also starred in the velodrome and ended his hunt for an Olympic medal with silver in the omnium at Rio 2016, while he won three world titles in the Madison.
He has overcome adversity after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus which can cause fatigue and led to Cavendish taking a break from cycling in 2018.
“Mark Cavendish has had so many miracle comebacks, like almost nobody else,” added Voigt.
“How many tough crashes, the Epstein-Barr virus. He came back and back again and again and he came back and still at a really good level.
'Until then, he's not done!' - Walker details incredible Cavendish career
“So, I think it's a good decision for him. He’s got his happy family, he feels his body is maybe not at 100% anymore. So, I understand him. It makes perfect sense to me.
“I mean, saying that, I also understand people who go, ‘As long as I get paid to keep riding, I will’. I understand that approach as well. Because of your career is short, what sort of people do this job.”
Cavendish boasts 53 wins across the three Grand Tours, with only Merckx (64) and Mario Cipollini (57) ahead of him in the all-time standings.
Voigt spent time racing against Cavendish and says there is one favourite story about him that he will always remember.
“I remember when I crashed in the Tour in 2010 and I had to ride on a kid’s bike for about 15km, that was actually not the best part of the day.
Jens Voigt (L) and Mark Cavendish at the 2013 Tour de France
Image credit: Getty Images
“The best part was after I changed back from a kid's bike to my normal bike, I caught the group with Mark Cavendish, and back then he was with HTC and was already the $1m bike rider. So, HTC sent three team-mates back: Bernie Eisel, Mark Renshaw and Bert Grabsch to make it as easy as possible for Cav to stay within the time limit.
“I catch Cav on the uphill with his team-mates, Bernie Eisel looks at me and goes ‘Man, Jens you look like sh*t, you look pretty beat up. Why don’t you go ahead and we’re going to go down full gas to make up the time on the downhill’.
“I said, ‘look, I can go further than this. I caught you guys’. Then, these four boys showed me in my eyes, the biggest displays of fairness, sportsmanship and loyalty. They knew very well that every second that they waited for me, they made their own life harder and every corner I lost five or 10 metres.
“They all turned around and stopped pedalling until I was back, they never yelled at me and never asked me to pull back. They saved my day. They made sure I stayed in the time limit knowing that it makes your life so much harder. And I never forget that.”
- - -
Stream the 2023 Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+ and eurosport.co.uk
Cavendish to retire at end of season as Tour de France record bid looms large
Cort wins Stage 10 from break, Thomas survives cold and wet day in pink
Share this article