Mark Cavendish: I don't take being the fastest sprinter for granted any more

Mark Cavendish knows that pure speed isn't enough to win Tour de France stages these days, but he wins them anyway

Mark Cavendish wins stage six of the 2016 Tour de France (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Technological advancements and the emergence of a new breed of sprinter means Mark Cavendish can’t rely on simply being the fastest sprinter in the peloton any more, but the Manxman is still finding ways to win at the Tour de France.

Cavendish sped past Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) in the final 200m to edge his 29th Tour win, with young Brit Dan McLay came through to take third on the line.

With Kittel leading the new generation of big, powerful sprinters, diminutive riders like Cavendish are having to use more than just raw speed to get over the line first.

“I don’t take [being the fastest] for granted any more,” he said after the stage. “When I started 10 years ago there weren’t any guys putting out 2,000 Watts, there were no aerodynamic bikes, no skinsuits, no aerodynamic helmets and you had to be able to climb as well.

“Now you can go faster as a big, powerful, heavy guy and there’s not really simple biology and physiology [to being a successful sprinter].

Watch: Highlights of the Tour de France stage six

“Cycling’s quite a unique sport in that all different body shapes, sizes and physiologies can race together and you have to make [the most of] what works for you.”

The win in Montauban takes the Manxman past Bernard Hinault in the overall wins list and just five victories behind Eddy Merckx’s record.

The 31-year-old, who will head to the Olympic Games with Team GB after the Tour de France, paid tribute to his Dimension Data sports directors for his new lease of life.

“There’s a reason why I’ve had Rolf [Aldag] around me most of my career – he sees things that I even don’t. He’s a guy who will listen to me moan and will do his utmost to sort out any problems that I have,” he said.

“With Rolf and Roger Hammond we’ve got the most formidable couple of directors on the course to make decisions.

“It’s not like I’m just making decisions in the final, we have a plan each day and the race goes pretty much to how those guys say it will, which is testament to them and I’m fortunate to have them on my side.”

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.