Mark Cavendish needs just four more Tour de France stage wins to move above Bernard Hinault on the all-time winners list

Mark Cavendish wants to win in the Tour de France, but he played down the importance of matching Bernard Hinault’s mark of 28 stage victories – a number he’s just three shy of.

Cavendish could give Etixx-Quick-Step the most wins in this Tour de France judging by his season so far. After crashing out on day one in Harrogate last year, he returned with what appears to be newfound determination.

So far for 2015, he counts 13 victories – only Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has more with 18.

If he is able to continue his winning ways then he could snap up victories in the Tour’s sprint stages and begin to edge towards Hinault’s mark. Cycling great Eddy Merckx holds the record and stands on the next step above Hinault with 34 wins.

Cavendish, however, dismissed the idea that he would be hunting for his place in the Tour’s record books alongside Hinault. He insisted that a win for Etixx comes first, whether that is for himself or for his Belgium-based team.

“I don’t come into the Tour de France to try to beat Hinault,” Cavendish said at the Etixx-Quick-Step press conference.

“I’ve won stages in many Tours, I’d like to keep winning. One stage makes a rider’s career, let alone multiple stages.

“It doesn’t have to be me to win stages. As long as we win stages, it will be a successful Tour de France for us.”

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Cavendish’s winning motor began to rev in the Tour in 2008 with five stage wins. In 2009 he took six, in 2010 and 2011 five each. In 2012, riding for Sky with Bradley Wiggins, he dipped to three. With Omega Pharma in 2013, now Etixx, he sprinted to two wins.

After his first stage win in 2013, he gave a similar answer when asked about reaching the marks of Hinault and Merckx.

“I aim to win stages each year, but to set goals like that sets you up to fail,” he said.

“I changed teams [from Sky] because this race means everything for me. I want to come here for the rest of my career and give the race the respect it deserves.”

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Cavendish’s run was stopped with a crash on the finish straight in Harrogate in stage one last year and a subsequent dislocated shoulder.

Some questioned whether he could ever return the top of the sprinting echelon after 2013 and 2014 with riders like André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) making their way forward. This early season, however, he showed he’s back at his best.

Making his chances that much easier to win, the Tour de France will roll off without the number one sprinter over the last two years, Marcel Kittel.

The German won four stages in 2013 and four in 2014, but was overlooked by Giant in its team selection due lack of fitness following a virus this spring.

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“But there’s nearly 200 riders that will be starting. If you take any of them away that increases my chances of winning,” Cavendish said about Kittel.

“To be fair I missed the races more. I crashed out on the first stage of last year’s Tour de France in Harrogate and I missed the race a lot. I was in superb form and to sit at home and watch the race wasn’t easy. We’ve looked at trying to come into the Tour de France in the same form I was in last year and hopefully get back to winning ways.”

Take a look at Mark Cavendish’s Specialized Venge