As a track cyclist he specialises in the madison, points race, and scratch race disciplines; as a road racer he is a sprinter.
He is widely considered one of the greatest road sprinters of all time, and in 2021 was called "the greatest sprinter in the history of the Tour and of cycling" by Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France.
In his first years as an elite track rider, Cavendish won gold in the madison at the 2005 and 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championships riding for Great Britain.
As a road cyclist, Cavendish turned professional in 2005, and achieved eleven wins in his first professional season.
In 2012, he became the first person to win the final Champs-Élysées stage for four consecutive years.
He won seven Grand Tour stages in 2013, one in 2015 and four in 2016. This included a win on stage one of the 2016 Tour de France, claiming him his first Tour de France yellow jersey of his career.