Three weeks ago, I wrote an article detailing a return to form by Mark Cavendish. In it, I concluded that it would be possible for Cav to return to winning ways in 2021.
Now, Cavendish has delivered on that possibility. The Manxman has now scooped up two straight victories at the 2.Pro Tour of Turkey. Each of these wins is steeped in history.
Cavendish’s victory on Monday was his first win in 1,159 days, a stretch dating back to 2018.
His victory on Tuesday’s stage three marks the first time Cavendish has won back to back stages of a race since the 2015 Tour of California.
A quick glance at cycling Twitter yesterday or today shows just how popular Cav’s victories are among the fans. It was a long time coming, but that only means it is even sweeter now that it is here.
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) April 12, 2021
In the closing kilometers of stage two, Cavendish found himself at the head of the peloton, parked on the wheel of Deceuninck Quick Step leadout man Álvaro Hodeg. With 800 meter to go, Alpecin-Fenix produced a strong surge to place their sprinter, Jasper Philipsen, in the driver’s seat. Cavendish then tagged onto the wheel of Israel Start-Up Nation sprinter André Greipel. As the riders entered the finishing straight, Cavendish was well placed in fifth position.
Philipsen was forced to launch his sprint just outside of 200 meters to go when his final teammate pulled off. With 100 meters until the line, Cavendish came out of Greipel’s wheel to make his move. Cav came around the outside to the right of Greipel, before moving back to the left of Philipsen.
Cavendish overhauled the fading Belgian inside of the final 50 meters to grab the long-awaited victory.
This video, taken moments after the finish, shows exactly what it meant to him:
Third place for @AndreGreipel.
— Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@TeamIsraelSUN) April 12, 2021
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) April 13, 2021
After his victory on stage two, Cavendish started stage three in the turquoise leader’s jersey.
Cavendish’s DQS teammates once again made sure that the 35-year-old was well positioned in the final few kilometers. Inside of a kilometer to go, it was Israel Start-Up Nation on the front for Greipel. With 500 meters to go, Cavendish had found the wheel of Philipsen, who was parked at the tail end of the ISN train.
This time, there was no waiting around for the other sprinters to make their moves. Cavendish got the jump on everybody by opening up his sprint just as Greipel’s final leadout man finished his turn at the front.
Cavendish was in front for the better part of the final 150 meters, but nobody was able to come around him.
In vintage Cavendish fashion, this gave him time to post up and celebrate as he crossed the line.
Now that Cav has managed to open the floodgates, the speculation has begun on what his ceiling is for the 2021 season.
The fact that Cavendish has now beaten Jasper Philipsen twice certainly is significant. Philipsen has earned a reputation for being a very talented sprinter, and he has a grand tour stage win from a season ago to back that up.
However, I am not entirely convinced that the discussion of what else Cavendish can accomplish this season is particularly important right now.
Will Cavendish win again this season? I think so. The opportunity is even there for him to win again in Turkey before the race wraps up.
But even if he does not, Cavendish has had a successful season. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and mental fortitude to recover from illness and difficult stretches like Cavendish has. Because of that, these two wins are especially meaningful.
I do not have a crystal ball that will tell me whether or not Cavendish will add to his collection of grand tour stage wins. What I do know is that it has been fantastic to see Cav back at his best.
I am sure that Cavendish himself will badly want to continue his winning ways. The evidence suggests it would not be wise to bet against him.
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– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)