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Cavendish calls press briefing, feeding retirement speculation

As Mark Cavendish celebrated his 38th birthday on Sunday slogging up hills in the Giro d’Italia, local newspapers said that he would use Monday’s rest day to announce he planned to retire.

The British sprinter’s team, Astana, said on Sunday he would hold a rest-day press conference at the team’s hotel just south of Lake Como “to talk about the Giro d’Italia and the rest of the season”.

Italian newspaper Gazetta dello Sport immediately reported that the rider, who has amassed 161 victories over a 17-year career, would reveal that he will ride into the sunset at the end of the season.

Contacted by AFP, Astana declined to comment. 

Cavendish is planning to ride the Tour de France in July, chasing one more stage victory to break a tie with Belgium great Eddy Merckx for the record in the race. Both have 34.

This season Cavendish joined the Astana team, managed by his former teammate Alexandre Vinokourov. 

The Manxman won the world title in 2011 and the Milan-San Remo classic in 2008. In addition to 34 individual stage wins in the Tour de France, he has 16 in the Giro and three in the Spanish Vuelta.

He was won the points classification in all three major Tours. 

While he has not yet won this season, he has shown in the Giro that he is still competitive. With the race dominated by breakaways, Cavendish has contended in the few massed sprint finishes, coming in third on stage 11 and fourth, after falling off his bike, in stage five.

Two other, much younger, peloton luminaries have already announced their retirement at the end of the season, Slovakian Peter Sagan, who is 33, and Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who turns 33 next week. 

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