It took 52 years for someone to beat Merckx's Tour de France record - could anyone come close to taking it from Mark Cavendish?

Tadej Pogačar has 12 stage wins - but it would take eight more years at this current rate to beat Cavendish

Mark Cavendish and Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Eddy Merckx broke the Tour de France stage win record on the 23 July 1972. The Belgian, who only made his debut at the French Grand Tour three years earlier, in 1969, amassed 26 stage wins out of just 104 opportunities. The Belgian won a quarter of days he started in his first four Tours to clinch the record from André Leducq, who had held the title of 'winningest' for the previous 40 years. 

Just under 52 years later, Mark Cavendish smashed through Merckx's yellow ceiling on stage five of the 2024 Tour de France. While the Belgian rode just seven Tours to make history, in just eight years, Cavendish has proved that longevity matters just as much. The Manxman is riding his 15th Tour, 16 years after he made his debut. He might not be able to match Merckx's strike rate, but he has outdone the Belgian on just a longer career. That, in itself, is impressive, let alone the winning. 

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Adam Becket
News editor

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s news editor – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing. He's usually out and about on the roads of Bristol and its surrounds. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.