Mark Cavendish beats Tim Merlier to sprint victory in post-Tour de France crit

The British sprinter was on the podium again in the lucrative exhibition race in Flanders

Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France 2021
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish was back on the podium as he took victory in a post-Tour de France criterium in Belgium.

The British sprinter bested Alpecin-Fenix rival Tim Merlier in a sprint in Roeselare, West Flanders, during the lucrative exhibition race on Tuesday (July 20). 

Post-Tour crits are a long-standing tradition in pro cycling, as some of the biggest names from the Tour de France head on a publicity trip around Europe, with a series of friendly races taking place mainly in France and Belgium.

The events routinely attract the biggest stars to the race, thanks to the very generous starting bonuses paid to the more famous participants. 

This year, the Roeselare crit was the only post-Tour event after the usual calendar of events was scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Cavendish was one of the biggest success stories from this year’s Tour de France, as the Deceuninck - Quick-Step sprinter made a historic comeback, having not won a stage of the Tour since 2016.

After years of struggling through illness, injury, mental health problems, and fearing the premature end of his career last season, Cavendish returned to the Tour after Deceuninck’s chosen sprinter Sam Bennett was forced out due to injury. 

Cavendish claimed four stage victories in the 2021 Tour, matching the all-time record for Tour de France stage wins held by Eddy Merckx with 34. 

The Manxman also took the green jersey for only the second time in his career. 

>>> Tokyo Olympics: Full list of Team GB cyclists competing 

Speaking in Paris after the Tour, 36-year-old Cavendish said: “I’m very happy. One month ago I wasn’t supposed to do the Tour de France and now I am here, after three weeks that will live long in memory. I never imagined I would be again wearing green on the Champs-Élysées, but here I am, thanks to the amazing riders and staff of Deceuninck – Quick-Step. They were a big part of this success and together we’ve been through so many emotions.”

“For me, to be back at this race that I love so much and do what I did was a dream. I am incredibly happy that I have my family here, as I haven’t seen them in the last five weeks and it feels great to share with all of them these unforgettable moments”  

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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.