Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Mark Cavendish earns Tour de France immortality with 35th stage win

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Mark Cavendish was determined – perhaps destined – to break the Tour de France stage wins record.

Last year was supposed to be his 14th and final Tour, but the dream of ending his career with the outright record motivated him to delay his retirement and make another comeback.

Already regarded as the best sprinter of all time, now the Manx Missile has earned the prize he desperately sought with his 35th victory in cycling’s greatest race at Saint Vulbas on Wednesday – his 165th career victory.

He will be immortalised in the race’s history after surpassing Eddy Merckx to become its greatest ever stage winner.

In a post on social media Belgian Merckx, who won the Tour five times between 1969-1974, wrote: “Congratulations Mark for this historic performance. A good guy who has beaten my record on the Tour.”

Cavendish had jointly held the record for most Tour stage wins with Merckx since winning his 34th stage in 2021.

At the age of 39, surpassing a tally previously considered almost out of reach for any modern-day rider let alone a sprinter, is an achievement that speaks of the longevity and breadth of success of his career.

“The Tour de France is bigger than cycling. I love it, I love racing the Tour,” Cavendish said.

“Every little detail has been put towards today.”

Cavendish’s love affair with the Tour began on 7 July 2008 at Chateauroux – the first of four stage victories in that edition of the race.

His breakthrough moment arguably came on the track in 2005, with a world title in the madison, after springing to prominence in the newly-formed British Cycling academy under the supervision of Rod Ellingworth.

But his ability to read a finish, weave into position and produce devastating accelerations have all served to make him formidable in La Grande Boucle.

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