Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) made history at the Tour de France after winning stage six to Montauban on Thursday, moving him to second on the all-time list of stage winners.
The Manxman sits five victories off the record of Eddy Merckx with 34 stage wins, but has now surpassed Bernard Hinault, who’s 28-win record he matched on stage three of this edition of the Tour.
It’s Cavendish’s third victory of the race, his best tally at the Tour since riding for Team Sky in 2012, where he recorded three victories including a win on the Champs Elysées as world champion.
The Dimension Data man beat rival Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) to the line on the long slightly down hill run-in to the finish, launching his sprint early, coming around the German and managing to hold him off for the win on the line.
Britain’s Dan McLay also put in a fine showing on the stage, having recorded three top-10s already in this Tour, the Fortuneo-Vital Concept rider was only narrowly beaten to second place by Kittel.
Lead out trains seemed to fall apart on the technical running, with Cavendish saying at the end that he had been “wheel-surfing” and trying to hold Kittel’s wheel.
In the end, Cavendish managed to hold everyone off and continue his fine form at this year’s Tour de France to record his 29th career win at the race. The win also propels him back into the lead of the green jersey points competition ahead of Kittel and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
The 190.5km stage from Arpajon-du-Cére had been another relatively sedate affair, with the peloton happy to let the pairing of Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida) and Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) get up the road in a break, establishing a maximum gap of just under six minutes.
It never looked like they would hold on though, and the gap quickly began to tumble as the finish line gradually approached.
By 29km to go, the pair only had a handful of seconds and Direct Energie began to step-up the pace for their sprinter Bryan Coquard. Arashiro and Barta were eventually caught 6km later, and the technical run-in through town began.
There was no significant change in the GC after the sixth day at the Tour, with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) holding on to his lead as the race heads towards the Pyrenees on Friday’s stage seven.
If all 198 riders take to the start line on stage seven, it will be the first time in the Tour’s history that there has been a full compliment of riders so far into the race.
Tour de France 2016 stage six, Arpajon-sur-Cère – Montauban (190.5km)
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data, in 4-43-48
2. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep
3. Daniel McLay (GBr) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
7. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
10. Shane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Argon18, all same time
General classification after stage six
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-11
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 5-13
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 5-15
5. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 5-17
6. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 5-17
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 5-17
8. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac at 5-17
9. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 5-17
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 5-17