Mark Cavendish is ruing the decision to leave lead-out man Michael Mørkøv's wheel in the Champs-Élysées sprint on the final stage of the Tour de France, as the opportunity to set a new record for most Tour de France stage wins flashed by him in the shape of Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen, Cavendish having to settle for third.
"I left Mørkøv's wheel didn't I? Shouldn't have left Mørkøv's wheel," Cavendish told ITV after the stage of the mistake he made in the final.
"I've seen Van Aert come with speed and he still had Teunissen with him, and then Jonas Rickaert came underneath and that was me from then on. I knew I was in a pretty dark situation, knew I was boxed. Rickaert came and he had Philipsen then. Pretty much exactly what we do, our tactics, they did against us because I left Mørkøv's wheel."
Ultimately, though, Cavendish isn't too upset, a month ago a Tour comeback wasn't even on the cards and now he's equalled Merckx's record and captured an unexpected green jersey.
"Doesn't matter, we stayed safe and we've got five stage wins from here so we can be happy," Cavendish said.
"It was a little bit chaotic in the final, I didn't really like it if I'm honest. It wasn't nice at all. Then Mørkøv had one of the GoPros on his saddle so I had to be even more vigilant with where my handlebars were going.
"We've got the green jersey, we're in Paris, four weeks ago I wasn't even going to be at this race, but to be here...five stage wins, yellow jersey for a day, green jersey for 14, 15 days, it's a successful Tour de France for Deceuninck - Quick-Step."
Interestingly, when asked about the green jersey, Cavendish uses the phrase 'when I was riding', instinctively talking of this comeback as a detached surprise away from the majority of his career, talking about how the placement of intermediate sprints has changed over the past decade. When questions turn to another ride at the Tour next year, it's of course all up in the air. Does he want to go out on this unexpected high? Or is there still hunger?
"Honestly, since really 2011 I never really thought about getting it anyway. Only in the last couple of years have they changed where they put the intermediate sprints that's when I was like 'urgh, I wish they'd done that when I was riding!'
"It's just serendipity that I'm here now 10 years after wearing it I'm wearing it again, I'm just super grateful.
"I don't know, I'm getting on a bit," Cavendish said of whether he'll ride the 2022 Tour. "All I want to do now is enjoy a nice dinner with my team-mates and my family and spend the next few days with my wife and kids and see what happens."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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