Cavendish battled to a hard-earned stage win on day four of the 2021 Tour, beating Nacer Bouhanni (Arkèa-Samsic) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) in Fougères.
It was an emotional victory for the British sprinting star, who has been absent from the Tour since 2018 and hasn’t won a stage there in five years.
Cavendish is back in the colours of Deceuninck - Quick-Step, having left the team run by Patrick Lefevere at the end of 2015 to join Dimension Data.
Speaking after the stage, the 36-year-old said: “I was away from them five years too long, I should never have left.
“I can talk about how hard my last years have been but the last year there have been many people in the world in worse situations than mine.
"I hope my story can give hope to people.
“Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have imagined it, if you want to guarantee a ride at the Tour de France you don’t come to Deceuninck – Quick-Step because they have the best riders in the world, like Sam Bennett. I never would have thought I’d come. This race was everything to me growing up and is still now.”
This wasn't Cavendish's first success in Fougères, as he won there in the 2015 Tour while racing for his current team, then called Etixx-Quick Step.
Cavendish has been back to his best since rejoining Deceuninck this season, bringing to an end three winless years for the ‘Manx Missile’.
After winning four out of eight stages at the Tour of Turkey, then beating some of the best sprinters in the world at the Belgium Tour, Cavendish got the last minute call-up to the Tour de France as star sprinter Sam Bennett was sidelined due to injury.
Cavendish added: “So many people didn’t believe in me you know, and these guys do, they did.
“I thought I was never coming back to this race, honestly.
“When you come to Deceuninck – Quick-Step, you’ve got the best riders in the world. It wasn’t even a thought to come here. But the stars aligned somehow.”
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