Mark Cavendish wins his first race in final season after perfect leadout in Tour Colombia

The Briton fended off the challenge of home rider Fernando Gaviria on stage four of the Tour Colombia

Mark Cavendish
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's only taken four days of racing, and Mark Cavendish has already won a race in 2024 - the Briton triumphing on stage four of Tour Colombia.

The Astana-Qazaqstan rider finished third in the opening day's sprint in Duitama behind winner Fernando Gaviria, and in Zipaquirá on Friday Cavendish repaid his team for a sterling leadout by just edging out Gaviria of Movistar.

Cavendish, who is competing in Colombia for the first time in his long, illustrious career, was given the perfect slingshot to the line by his Astana teammates, with three of them marshalling him inside the final kilometre.

As he came off the wheel of Cees Bol with just over 100m of road remaining, Cavendish charged through the middle and crossed the line just as Gaviria was coming up on the left of him.

It is the earliest that the Manx Missile has won a race since 2018 when he won stage three of the Dubai Tour, and it will elevate his confidence in his final season.

The victory was his 163rd in his career, meaning he has moved up to joint-second in the all-time win rankings of male professional riders, sitting alongside Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini.

Cavendish announced during last year's Giro d'Italia that he was set to retire at the end of 2023, but a broken collarbone in the Tour de France forced him to rethink his decision and he committed for one more season.

He and his team, which includes Cees Bol and his former QuickStep teammates Michael Mørkøv and Davide Ballerini, have been  in Colombia for the past few weeks as part of a block of altitude training.

The six-stage race only had two sprint-friendly stages, and Cavendish will next compete at the UAE Tour, which starts on February 19. There are likely to be as many as four opportunities in the UAE, but he'll face much stiffer competition, with Dylan Groenwegen (Jayco-AlUla), Olav Kooij (Visma Lease a Bike) and Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich PostNL) all present among a star-studded line-up.

Cavendish's big goal for the season is winning a record 35th Tour de France stage in the summer, which will take him above Eddy Merckx. The duo both currently hold the record with 34 stage victories.

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