Thirteen years to the day after he won his first Tour de France stage, Mark Cavendish has pulled another rabbit out of the hat.
Since that day in 2008, Cavendish has consistently built his legacy as one of the finest sprinters the sport has ever seen. Except for when he wasn’t.
A year ago, Cavendish was preparing for the Vuelta a Burgos after five months without racing. He simply was not competitive in the sprints in 2020. As his season came to an end with a DNF at Brugge-De Panne, it looked as though we had seen the last of the Manxman on the professional circuit.
Instead, Cavendish has rallied to deliver one of the best comeback stories in recent cycling history. With today’s victory, his fourth of the 2021 Tour, Cavendish has matched Eddy Merckx’s long standing record of 34 Tour de France stage victories.
Prior to the past two weeks, Cavendish had not won at Le Tour since 2016. He had had a glittering career, one of the best ever for a sprinter. However, it looked as though he had come up just short of Merckx’s record. That ship had surely sailed.
Today has been another timely reminder that looks can be deceiving.
Cavendish’s 34th Stage Win
🇬🇧🇮🇲 @MarkCavendish took his 34th stage win to equal Eddy Merckx record!
The final KM ⬇️
🇬🇧🇮🇲 @MarkCavendish remporte sa 34ème victoire d'étape sur le Tour et égale le record d'Eddy Merckx.
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 9, 2021
An early catch of the breakaway set up a hectic finish to Le Tour’s 13th stage. Despite this, Deceuninck – Quick-Step was present at the front.
With Cavendish a few wheels back in the final 500 meters, Michael Mørkøv purposely lost the wheel of Davide Ballerini in order to shift the pressure onto rival teams. By the time Iván García Cortina responded, Mørkøv had his charge in the perfect spot.
It seemed as though Cavendish and Jasper Philipsen made their bids for the win at the same time, each of them swinging to the right of Mørkøv and darting towards the line. As he has been throughout this Tour, the Manx Missile was just too quick.
To highlight the sprinting dominance of Deceuninck, it was Mørkøv who crossed the line in second to complete the one-two punch.
A Touch of Class from Cavendish
— Orla Chennaoui (@SportsOrla) July 8, 2021
Earlier in the week, Cavendish took to Instagram to tip his hat to another cyclist who had reached a phenomenal milestone.
On Thursday, Marianne Vos picked up an astonishing 30th Giro d’Italia Donne stage win. This number is even more impressive when one considers that the women’s Grand Tour has historically been held over eight to ten stages instead of the 21 of Le Tour.
This incredible feat is yet another reason why Marianne Vos is overwhelmingly considered to be the greatest female cyclist of all time.
Unfortunately, the disparity of television coverage between the Giro Donne and Le Tour is a reminder of the progress that still needs to be made to elevate women’s cycling to equal standing in 2021.
Cavendish and Vos are both a credit to cycling, on and off the bike.
The Manxman’s post, coming a day before his own tremendous achievement, is a great example of how we must honor all champions of the sport regardless of gender.
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Featured image courtesy of @LeTour.