Mark Cavendish: ‘The Tour de France is not a bike race, it’s a world sporting event’

The British sprinter shares his thoughts on the pressure of the Tour

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

Mark Cavendish says the Tour de France is more than just a bike race, it’s a “world sporting event.”

British pro Cavendish is the most successful sprinter in the history of the race and is tied at the top of the standings for the most stage wins, sitting alongside cycling legend Eddy Merckx. 

But Cavendish has spoken about the pressure riders face when racing the Tour and explains why “emotions are so high.” 

Speaking on Danish TV show Radio Tour during the Vuelta a España, the “Manx Missile” said: “You have cycling, WorldTour cycling, then you have the Tour de France.

"The Tour is not a bike race, it’s a world sporting event. It’s a different level. People who have never been don’t understand. 

“Every time you do an interview with one of the riders, whether it’s a rider with personality or without personality, they always say ‘the Tour is the Tour.’ 

“It’s the only bike race in the world where you have 180 of the best bike riders at that time, all in peak form. The consequences of winning or losing are just bigger.  

“That’s why the emotions are so high.

“The stress is different, it’s something you have to prepare for.” 

Cavendish made his return to the Tour de France this year, having not raced since 2018 due to illness, injury and mental health struggles.

But having joined Deceuninck - Quick-Step at the start of 2021, Cavendish was back to the top in the Tour, winning four stages and claiming the green jersey for the second time in his career.

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Cavendish also extended his winning record in the Tour to 34 wins, matching the record previously held by all-round great Eddy Merckx, making Cavendish the most successful pure sprinter in the history of the race. 

During the Tour, a video also emerged showing him shouting at a mechanic before the start of stage 19. 

Cavendish was having problems was his bike and was filmed venting his frustration in front of fans. 

He then shared a post on Instagram responding to the video, but fell short of making an apology. 

The 36-year-old will be back in action at the Deutschland Tour later this month, before he heads to the Tour of Britain in early September. 

Alex Ballinger
Alex Ballinger

Alex is the 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 and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.

Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has 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 journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.