British sprinting superstar Cavendish fired his way to his 34th career Tour de France stage victory on Friday (July 9), as he was guided to the line by lead-out expert Michael Mørkøv.
The stage 13 victory in Carcassonne is a historic moment, as Deceuninck - Quick-Step’s Cavendish matched the all-time record for Tour stage wins, all from bunch sprints, while Merckx won across all types of terrain.
Speaking after the finish on stage 13, Mørkøv said: “I can understand Cav, he pushed [the record] away. It’s not something you want to play mind games with yourself over, now he’s equalled Eddy Merckx.
“I think it’s amazing, just as a sports fan as well. Even if I wasn’t his team-mate I would still think it’s really special that a rider from this time has equalled Eddy Merckx.
“It’s history. He broke a 50 year old record. Having said that, Merck won his stages differently, so you can clearly say Mark is the best sprinter there ever was in cycling.”
It was a hard-earned win for Cavendish and his Belgian team, as Deceuninck were forced to control the entire 219km stage to keep the three-rider breakaway on the leash.
After their main chaser Tim Declerq went down in a crash 60km from the finish, the squad then had to navigate a hectic final, with Cavendish losing Mørkøv’s wheel inside the final 500m only to find his man again 250m from the finish.
Cavendish then put in a staggering sprint to deny Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Iván García (Movistar) at the line, with Mørkøv himself sprinting to second place on the stage behind Cavendish.
Mørkøv said: “It was a very hard stage. It was very hard to control it.
“The whole team put in a massive effort at the end. What a way [to win]. Cav has won four out of four sprints he was participating in.”
Cavendish now has four stage wins in the 2021 Tour, matching the success of the 2016 edition, which was the last time he won a stage of the Tour before this season.
The Manxman also has a comfortable lead in the green jersey competition, which he leads by 99 points over Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), and looks set to take home in Paris if he can survive the tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees yet to come.
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