Mark Cavendish Makes History

Throughout the Tour de France, the question has been, can Mark Cavendish equal/break the record of Eddy Merckx for the number of stage wins in the Tour – today (Friday) he did just that

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Mark Cavendish Makes History

Today (Friday), Mark Cavendish showed he was more than equal to the task of equalling the record of the great Eddy Merckx by winning his 34th stage in the Tour de France in a chaotic stage finish which even with his leadout men, was really hard work for Cavendish. He fought and fought and sprinted to the victory though. Some sprint wins can be very straight forward but this was the complete opposite as he had his moments when it could have gone all wrong. Even in the final 20km, there were moments when he was squeezed and had to lean on riders to stay upright.

This victory was not just about Mark the fast man but Mark the sprinter who can handle the pressure and demands of sprinters like no other. He is an icon of sprinting. A completely different rider to Eddy Merckx who’s record he has equaled. Merckx has not only just won stages but the overall as well but Cavendish’s achievement is no less important given all he has had to overcome in a Tour de France. Icons in their own way …

Today’s win was his fourth in the 2021 Tour de France and whilst the cards have fallen for him and not against him in the race, Cavendish has taken the responsibility and pressure and used it to make history. The fact he is in the race at all is down to things going his way in 2021. The signing for such a powerful team, the wins in Turkey and other races, the opportunity to take Sam Bennett’s place in the race and the faith the team have shown not only giving him a place in the team, but also the faith in him and with that, all the help stage by stage. Whether it is a sprint or a mountain stage, he has teammates giving him the help he just would not get in other team.

The strength of his team can be seen by the second place of his leadout man Michael Morkov ahead of Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen. Oh, and Tadej Pogacar retained the yellow jersey in Carcassonne.

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Patrick Lefevere, Cav’s team boss said after the history making victory, “It would be pretentious to say we expected this. But when Sam Bennett started to struggle with his knee, I didn’t hesitate too long.” When Lefevere was asked what is the secret of Cav’s four stage wins in this Tour, the Quickstep boss replies “The Wolfpack. Everyone with us goes through fire for each other. Everyone puts their ego in their travel suitcase in the morning. Everyone works for everyone. Maybe that is also the case in other teams, but it works better for us.”

Lefevere thinks the record is “fantastic”, but what about the remainder of this Tour for the Green jersey holder? Will he survive? “You see Cavendish improving every day, but he hasn’t raced a Grand Tour in a few years. You can always have a bad day.”

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Mark Cavendish meanwhile says “What a day. I am so dead after having raced 220 kilometres in that heat, in that wind – and what a finish! I was so on the limit in the end, but I had to sprint because of how much the guys had worked for me. The finish line was slightly uphill. [Iván García] Cortina went and I hoped [Michael] Morkov would bring him back because I had lost some ground on that last right-hand turn.”

“During the sprint, I was a bit worried because the commissaries had warned me I had headbutted Bouhanni on one of the first stages, so I was trying not to use my head and not to lean towards anyone during the sprint. For me, this is just another stage win on the Tour de France. It feels the same as the first one. I still don’t realise this is a special one because of the record. Just a kid’s dream comes true after a lot of hard work. If one of my victories can inspire ten children to take on cycling and maybe race the Tour de France/TdF Femmes. in the future, that’s what will matter the most to me.”

154 riders started stage 13 in Nîmes at 12.18 with one non-starter: Michael Gogl (Qhubeka-Nexthash). The race to be in the breakaway started quickly as Max Walscheid, Mads Pedersen and Lorenzo Rota managed to go clear after 15km but luck was not on their side. Sean Bennett, Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour attacked after 27km. Latour was first over the top of the only categorized climb of the day, the côte de Pic Saint-Loup at km 51. The trio managed a maximum advantage of 4’45″ after 55km. Goldstein, the second cyclist from Israel to take part in the Tour de France after Guy Niv, became the first from his country to get himself into a breakaway and win an intermediate sprint (at km 104.3).

Deceuninck-Quick Step soon seized the reins of the peloton with the intention to deliver another bunch sprint for Mark Cavendish. Petr Vakoc gave them a hand working for his sprinter Jasper Philipsen. They brought the deficit down to 1’30″ when attacks begun at the front 65km with the likes of Philippe Gilbert. A major crash involving 30 riders including Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates happened in the peloton while in the breakaway, Bennett attacked and then lost contact when Goldstein countered.

Goldstein and Latour forged on ahead but the time gap was quickly reduced a there was a lot of action in the peloton after the crash. Bennett was reeled in, so were Goldstein and Latour with 53km to go as they attacked each other rather than riding together. It was bunch up 50km before the end but there also some riders who had to leave the race because of the crash; Roger Kluge, Simon Yates and Lucas Hamilton.

With 45km to go before the race reached Carcassonne, Quentin Pacher rode away solo. He got an advantage of 1’30″ that forced Julian Alaphilippe to pull as Tim Declercq was off the back after the crash, racing to get to the finish within the time limit (which he did). The lead of the Frenchman Pacher was down to 20″with 20km to go. There was a regrouping a kilometre later.

A fight for the front then ensued as GC teams like Ineos and others wanted to keep their GC riders safe. There was a lot of bumping shoulders and elbows in the peloton on what was quite a technical run in for a sprint finish. Ivan Garcia Cortina upset the plans of Deceuninck-Quick Step as he took the lead 300 metres before the line before Philipsen seemed to go for the win on the right hand side but Cavendish came off the wheel of Morkov at the eleventh hour to power to the tightest of his four Tour de France victories up to date this year.

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