Mark Cavendish is not going for Eddy Merckx's record at the Tour de France, according to his trainer

The Manxman was a surprise pick for the Belgian squad as Sam Bennett was not fit enough to race

Mark Cavendish after winning the final stage of the Belgium Tour 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish will not be going for Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage wins at the Tour de France 2021, according to his trainer.

The Deceuninck - Quick-Step sprinter was a surprise selection for the Tour as it was expected reigning green jersey champion Sam Bennett would be riding, despite being injured in training a few weeks earlier.

However, the injury proved too much for Bennett and Cavendish was selected to ride in his place. But the Manxman's trainer, Vasilis Anastopoulos has played down the chase for the record amount of stage wins at the Tour.

>>> Tour de France 2021 start list: Teams for the 108th edition

The record is 34 victories at the race with Cavendish second with 30 wins, but Anastopoulos is keeping things realistic.

Speaking in the recent Tour de Greaves Cycling Show, Anastopoulos said: "We’re not going to chase down the record of Eddy Merckx because that’s something he has never talked about. It’s always around the media and journalists who make those questions. For me personally, I’m really happy that Cav is able to start on Saturday. 

"If he wins a stage, chapeau, it would be great. If he doesn’t, nobody’s going to blame him because he came up from nowhere. He hadn’t won anything for the last three years and went through some really bad moments, he fought with depression, he almost quit last year but everybody knows the story.

"To me personally, as his coach, I’m already happy he has five wins this year. He proved that he can be up there again with the best guys. He’s not finished yet."

Cavendish took his first win in three year's at the Tour of Turkey before following it up with three more at the same race. He then went on to win the final stage of the Belgium Tour against some of the biggest names in sprinting including Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).

"Our preparation was not ideal." continued Anastopoulos. "We didn’t do any altitude camps, but after the Tour of Turkey he had a short rest then he came to Greece with me for a really nice camp for 10 days, a hard camp. Then he went to the Ruta del Sol where unfortunately he had some stomach problems and we had to stop the race.

"Then he had a good block of racing in Belgium and last week he won the final stage of the Belgium Tour against the best sprinters in the world. If you look at the start list of the race, [Arnaud] Démare (Groupama-FDJ) was not there and Sam Bennett. All the rest were there."

This is the first time that Cavendish will ride the Tour de France since 2018 when he was riding for Dimension Data. He hasn't won a stage at the Tour since 2016 when he won four as well as wearing the yellow jersey.

That isn't expected to happen in this year's race as the opening two stages are very tricky for pure sprinters and are expected to be a battle of the punchers such as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).

Cavendish's first opportunity will likely come on stage four from Redon to Fougères over a pan flat 150.4km course.

The Tour de France starts on Saturday, June 26 in the Bretagne city of Brest before meandering around France, with a brief trip to Andorra, to then finish on the Champs Élysées in Paris, where Cavendish will hope to sprint to victory once again, if he makes it through the tough mountain stages on the route. 

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