Tour de France: Cavendish matches Merckx's record with 34th stage win

By Sports Desk July 09, 2021

Mark Cavendish's incredible return to the Tour de France continued as he matched Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage triumphs.

Cavendish, who won his first stage at the most famous of the grand tours back in 2008, has been one of the great success stories of this year's edition.

And, with two flat runs of the race to spare, the Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider scooped his fourth stage win of 2021 to equal Merckx's haul.

The Belgian great – a five-time Tour de France winner – set the record between 1969 and 1975.

Cavendish's record-equalling success came in Carcassonne at the culmination of stage 13's 220km route, with his team-mates executing a perfect lead-out in the final 1,500m.

Having established himself at the front of the peloton, Cavendish had to change his bike with around 35km to go, yet rallied back to be in place for the final push.

It came courtesy of Michael Morkov, who timed his burst to perfection, giving Cavendish the opportunity to sprint through the gap and clinch his record-equalling win in a photo finish, also becoming the first rider to win four stages of Le Tour at the age of 36 in the process.

Cavendish could yet surpass the record, with two more sprints to come in the final week. He has previously won a record four times on the Champs-Elysees finale in Paris.

In the general classification standings, Tadej Pogacar's controlled ride kept him in command of the yellow jersey.

There was drama further back in the stage as a crash with around 55km remaining resulted in three abandonments, including former Vuelta e Espana winner Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange.

IT'S LIKE MY FIRST ONE

Cavendish's career at the top level seemed to be over. Indeed, he even hinted at retirement following a run of poor form and illness in 2020.

Yet the 2016 Olympic silver medalist has reaffirmed his place as one of the greats with this extraordinary comeback. 

"It's tiring. I can't even think about it, I'm so dead, 220km in that heat, that wind. I went deep there, so deep, the boys were incredible. I don't believe it," an exhausted Cavendish said.

"A lot of the day I didn't feel like it was going to happen. The guys were riding like they were – I was so on the limit, you saw at the end – slightly uphill. I was lucky the lads just played it calm, I lost a little bit with about five km to go, it got a bit slippy I thought I'd punctured, but everyone else was like "it's the road", but we had to take it easy, I just lost a bit.

Asked if he had realised what his win meant, Cavendish added: "It's just another win on the Tour de France, it's like my first one – I've won a stage at the Tour de France, that's what I dreamed of as a kid, it's what I dream of now and I work so hard for it.

"I just hope, we've seen such a growth in cycling since I've started racing here, if any one of my wins can inspire kids to ride the Tour de France when they grow up, that's what means the most to me."

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 05:04:29
2. Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Ivan Garcia Conrtina (Movstar) 
5. Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) 

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 52:27:12'
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 178
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 171

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 43
3. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42

What's next?

The Tour heads into the Pyrenees over the weekend, with Saturday's 183.7km route taking the riders over five categorised climbs.

Related items

  • French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga

    Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have paid tribute to the "charismatic" Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after the 37-year-old brought his 18-year professional career to a close.

    Tsonga, who reached a career-high ranking of world number five in 2012, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    That duly came in the first round on Tuesday as he bowed out to world number eight Casper Ruud 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    He retires having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players, alongside Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    A video tribute was played on court after his defeat to Ruud, which featured messages from the sport's most iconic players.

    Federer said: "I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing career and it was a pleasure to share the court with and play against you, even to lose against you!

    "We had some great battles. Enjoy the moment in Paris with all your friends and family, in front of all your adoring spectators."

    Djokovic added: "Jo is one of the most charismatic tennis players ever to play the game. I was very happy to share the court with him many times.

    "We get along well and he's a really nice guy. He brought a lot of positive attention and popularity to our sport not just because of his dynamic game style, but also his charisma and his personality, so it's a big loss for professional men's tennis to have him retire.

    "I wish him all the best, and he definitely should be happy about his career and his achievements. He's made his mark and his legacy in our sport."

    Nadal said: "He is very charismatic. I've known him since we were kids; he is a good guy and I think he brings a lot of positive things to our sport so I'm sad to see him going but we are getting old so it's going to happen for everyone."

    Speaking at a media conference after his defeat, Tsonga said he would now spend some time relaxing before focusing on the development of his tennis academy.

    He said he will miss the adrenaline of playing on court, as well as how he was able to express himself completely when competing.

    "It's adrenaline, to step onto a big court like this one," he said. "It's adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

    "This is what I'm going to miss – the contact with the crowd. And with those who have been supporting me for all these years.

    "You know, in real life, it's sometimes difficult to be intense. You don't want to shock, you don't want to be too rude, you don't want to hurt somebody.

    "You always try to act to be nice, to be sociable. But, you know, on the court, you can express your fever. You can express everything about you, and it's sometimes freeing."

  • French Open: Tsonga wraps up 18-year career, finishing on 464 Tour-level wins French Open: Tsonga wraps up 18-year career, finishing on 464 Tour-level wins

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought his 18-year professional career to a close on Tuesday, after his first-round loss to Casper Ruud at the French Open.

    Tsonga, who reached a high ranking of world number five, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    For the 37-year-old, that was short-lived, as he bowed out to world number eight Ruud.

    Tsonga gave it his all, taking the lead and forcing a tie-break in three of the four sets, but Ruud had too much and prevailed 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    That confirmed the end of Tsonga's long career. He bows out having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players (also Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych) who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    Tsonga also became the first player since Guillermo Canas in 2002 to defeat four straight top-10 players at a Masters 1000 tournament when he triumphed in Toronto in 2014.

    "It's tough for me and all the players that you're stopping. You've been an inspiration to me and so many of the other players, so thank you for the memories," Ruud told Tsonga after the match.

    "[I have] so many good memories watching Jo on TV. He's such a great guy [and] nice person on and off the court. He's a good example of what a player should be."

  • Giro d'Italia: Hirt withstands the pain as Hindley closes in on Carapaz Giro d'Italia: Hirt withstands the pain as Hindley closes in on Carapaz

    Richard Carapaz's overall lead at the Giro d'Italia was cut to just three seconds as Jai Hindley finished third in a gruelling stage 16 won by Jan Hirt.

    The Giro returned in some style on Tuesday following Monday's rest day, with a 202km route from Salo to Aprica that included three category one climbs and over 5,000 metres of climbing in total.

    Hirt came out in front, sealing the first grand tour stage win of his career.

    The Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider was part of the breakaway and subsequently pushed up the final climb on the Valico di Santa Cristina before managing a difficult descent. 

    He finished seven seconds clear of Thymen Arensman, with Hindley sprinting ahead of Carapaz to put pressure on the rider wearing the maglia rosa and claim the four-second bonus for finishing third. 

    "I've had a few problems during the stage. My chain dropped, I cramped, but I never gave up," Hirt said.

    "I'm glad I managed to go solo. I always said that my biggest achievement would be to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia and I could stop after that, but I won't stop now."

    Carapaz said: "It's been a hard stage and at the end I'm happy. I thought I was going to win the sprint for third place.

    "I eventually didn't, but it's still a good day for me. I've lost a few seconds on Hindley, but I gained more on [Joao] Almeida."

    Alejandro Valverde, on his final Giro appearance, got himself up the GC standings, though not enough to be a true contender in the final week. He sits 11th overall.
     

    Mythical Mortirolo

    An initially big breakaway group split on the Mortirolo Pass, one of the most notorious climbs in professional cycling.

    Hirt was one of the riders to drop off, but he recovered brilliantly and joined a seven-strong group that wound its way to the final climb.

    "Every time I hear Mortirolo I want to anticipate. I wanted to go in the breakaway today," Hirt said.

    "There were difficult moments when the group split, so then we had to come back on the Mortirolo, then in the end on the last climb I had a problem with my bike, it was not shifting properly and the chain was jumping.

    "Then I had cramps on the downhill, so I had all these problems, but I just wanted to fight all the way to the finish."

    STAGE RESULT 

    1. Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 5:40:45
    2. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) +0:07
    3. Jai Hindley (BORA-Hansgrohe) +1:24
    4. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +1:24
    5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:24

    CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

    General Classification

    1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 68:49:06
    2. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:03
    3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:44

    Points Classification

    1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238 
    2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 121
    3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 117

    King of the Mountains

    1. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 167
    2. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 99
    3. Diego Rosa (EOLO-Kometa) 92

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.