Mark Cavendish, who has 34 stage wins at the Tour de France among his cycling accolades, is to retire at the end of the season ©Getty Images

British cyclist Mark Cavendish, who is currently level with Eddy Merckx for all-time stage wins at the Tour de France, has announced he plans to retire from the sport at the end of the season.

Cavendish, who is also a multiple world champion on both road and track, an Olympic medallist and Commonwealth Games champion, said he had "lived a dream" but that he would hang up his bike at the end of the season.

Speaking during a rest day media conference at the Giro d’Italia, Cavendish, who currently rides for the Astana Qazaqstan Cycling Team said: "I’ve absolutely loved racing every kilometre of this race so far, so I feel it’s the perfect time to say it’s my final Giro d’Italia and 2023 will be my final season as a professional cyclist.

"Cycling’s been my life for over 25 years. I’ve lived an absolute dream.

"The bike has given me the opportunity to see the world and meet incredible people, a lot of whom I’m proud to call friends.

"I love the sport more than you can even imagine and I can’t see myself going too far from it, that’s for sure."

Cavendish, born on the Isle of Man and nicknamed the "Manx Missile" for his sprinting abilities, currently holds the record for Tour de France stage wins with Merckx of France, with both on 34.

His 34 stage wins on the Grand Tour have come between 2008 and 2021.

Cavendish has also won 16 individual stages at the Giro d’Italia between 2008 and 2022, and three stages of the Vuelta a España, all in 2010 - meaning he currently has 53 stage wins across all three of cycling's Grand Tours.

Cavendish won Olympic silver on the track for Britain in the madison at the Rio 2016 Olympics ©Getty Images
Cavendish won Olympic silver on the track for Britain in the madison at the Rio 2016 Olympics ©Getty Images

Elsewhere on the road, Cavendish has two World Championship medals to his name - winning the 2011 road race in Copenhagen and claiming a silver in the 2016 edition in Doha.

On the track Cavendish is a three-time world champion, winning the madison in 2005, 2008 and 2016.

In 2016 Cavendish also won omnium silver at the Olympics in Rio.  

He also has one Commonwealth Games medal to his name, winning gold for the Isle of Man in the scratch race at Melbourne 2006.

At the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Cavendish carried the Isle of Man's flag during the Opening Ceremony alongside swimmer Laura Kinley.

Paying tribute British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park said: "Cav is without doubt the sport’s greatest sprinter and will be remembered by fans across the world for his 53 Grand Tour stage wins, and I’m sure that we will all be cheering him on as he looks to add to that total in his final months of racing.

"From a Great Britain Cycling Team perspective, we have seen him win rainbow jerseys on both the road and the track, a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games, and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year title in 2011.

"What most stands out in Cav as a sportsperson is the overwhelming sense of pride he showed each time he pulled on both the Great Britain Cycling Team and British national champion’s jerseys - a quality we want to instil in every single member of our team.

"Professional and passionate, Cav has been a real asset to our team over the years and will be remembered as both a peerless rider and a fantastic teammate with time for everyone.

"We wish him the very best of luck both for the rest of his final season in the peloton and in the next stage of his career."