Home Sports Mark Cavendish triumphs again as Briton edges closer to Eddy Merckx’s Tour...

Mark Cavendish triumphs again as Briton edges closer to Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record

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Mark Cavendish – Mark Cavendish triumphs again as Briton edges closer to Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record – GETTY IMAGES.

This time there is no avoiding the subject. He might not like it. He might bite the head off any reporter who dares mention it. But we need to talk about Eddy. Mark Cavendish’s second stage win of this race in Châteauroux on Thursday, the exact same city where he won his first 13 years ago, was another incredible moment in a Tour de France which is throwing up its fair share of them. Only four other riders here – Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali – were even racing back in 2008. But the truth is, it did not have nearly the same shock factor as his first into Fougères on Tuesday.

Then it was all about redemption, about ending five years of hurt and sticking two fingers up at his doubters. On Tuesday, the tears flowed, the emotion was off the charts, the shockwaves palpable. Cavendish was a fizzing ball of anger and energy and delight and vindication. This felt totally different. Almost as if it was expected. Cavendish had shown already he was the fastest sprinter here. He has the best loadout. Why wouldn’t he win?

That may not be fair on Cavendish, who, lest we forget, was scrabbling around for a team eight months ago and had not won a race in three years. As he is at constant pains to point out, winning just one Tour stage is enough to make tha rider’s careerWhy should he always be asked about the next one? But that is Cavendish’s curse and his genius: no one else has those expectations placed on them because no one else delivers under pressure like he does.

The fact is, he dominantly won his 32nd stage. After Greg van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën) and Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal) were swept up with 2.5km remaining – Deceuninck-QuickStep having the lion’s share of the work to catch them – Cavendish’s all-star leadout went to work. World champion Julian Alaphalippe, committing again just as he did on Tuesday, then Davide Ballerini, then Michael Mørkøv. Only Alpecin-Fenix took them on, yellow jersey Mathieu Van der Poel dropping off Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier on the right of the road, while Mørkøv led out Cavendish on the left.

The Manx rider was calm enough to wait when Mørkøv swung over. “He left a space open for me on the left, but I just needed a second longer,” Cavendish said afterward, explaining his decision to jump onto the back of Philipsen, who launched his sprint first. The 36-year-old duly powered past his rival in the final meters for a clear victory. He even had the presence of mind to re-enact his celebration back in 2008, placing both hands on his helmet in disbelief. Asked later if that was premeditated, Cavendish smiled and said nothing.

The question now is how many more he might manage at this Tour. This win took him to 32, just two behind Merckx’s all-time record of 34. A quick glance at the remaining stage profiles will tell you that that least would end in a bunch sprint. Stage 12 into Nîmes, where Cavendish had won before, stage 13 into Carcassonne, stage 19 into Libourne, and the final stage into Paris, where Cavendish won four times between 2009 and 2012.

Naturally, he glared when the Mnch TV reporter in that the Merckx question to him e immediate aftermath. “Please don’t ask me that question,” he said. “I just won my 50th stage in a grand tour, isn’t that enough?”

His reticence to engage with the Merckx record is understandable. Not only does he not want to jinx it, but he also has to get over the Alps this weekend to earn the right to sprint in Nîmes and Carcassonne, and then the Pyrenees if he wants to get to Libourne and Paris. That is by no means a given.

Cavendish has done virtually no climbing this year, not having planned to go to the Tour. “I’ve just got to look at each day as it comes,” he said in his press conference. “Tomorrow is 250 kilometers long and punchy at the finish. We’ve got a hard day on our hands.”

Others, though, are starting to size up the elephant in the room. “It’s a real dream now,” said ex-pro Sean Kelly. “Mark knows he can beat these guys. Now he’s done it, now he’s got the confidence, and he has the team around him, that record – he is very much capable of getting it.”

04:05 PM

Twitter’s chain reaction

In the absence of hour-long interviews with those on the ground in France, let’s see what the good people of Twitter are saying about Mark Cavendish’s win. First up, interesting to note that such was the power the Manxman put through his cranks and, in turn, his drivetrain that he managed to ship his chain in that final sprint.

The veteran, Alejandroerde, takes s the time to congratulate Cavendish after just winning the 50th grand tour stage of his career. While closer to home, the national governing body is, understandably, very proud of their former student’s achievement. Our friend at Fuoriclasse is one of the best in the business for stats, and this one is a cracker. Did not know that this chap followed the bikes.

03:41 PM

Cavendish refuses to be drawn on Merckx’s record.

Speaking afterward, Mark Cavendish refuses to say whether he can match Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins at the Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish – GETTY IMAGES

“Don’t say the name! I’m not thinking about anything,” Cavendish tells Seb Piquet. “I just won a stage of the Tour de France, if that was my first stage or my 32nd stage, I’ve just won a set of the Tour. That’s what people work their whole lives for; I’m thrilled. If I’m good enough to win 50, then I’m good enough to win 50; if I’m not good enough to win again, so be it.

“It seems like every time we finish here, there’s a different line-up. 2008 it was uphill a bit. I think it was further down the road. 2011 it was short – still uphill a bit … It’s been 10 years since I last won here. It’s pretty special.”

03:23 PM

Cavendish wins stage six at the Tour – No 32!

Mark Cavendish has done it, the Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter wins the 32nd Tour stage of his career and his third in the Châteauroux, making it a 100 percent win record in the town.

Mark Cavendish – AP

Quite remarkably, Cavendish even manages to raise his arms to his head, just as he did in 2008 when he won his first-ever stage at the Tour. He really is rolling back the years in 2021.

How it started, how it’s going . . .

Mark Cavendish – GETTY IMAGES

Delivered perfectly toward the line, reminiscent of the train he hitched onto back in his Highroad and HTC-Colombia days, Cavendish, in the end, made easy work of picking off Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), who finished second and third, respectively. That was vintage Cavendish.

On a day that was all about the stage win for Cavendish and, in turn, the intriguing battle for the green jersey, there were no changes towards the top of the general classification, and so Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) kept hold of the leader’s yellow jersey.

Cavendish extends his lead in the green jersey competition and now leads second-placed Philipsen by 54 points after bolstering his account with another 50 points, while Bouhanni moved up to third.

As mentioned earlier, there were no changes in the mountains classification after Greg van Avermaet took the only point on offer, so Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) will get again where the polka dot jersey in tomorrow’s stage. Likewise, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) keeps the white jersey as the best young rider.

Mark Cavendish

03:22 PM

1km to go

Mark Cavendish has two teammates ahead of him. The Briton is in pole position for this stage win here, but can he finish it off?

03:21 PM

1.5km to go

The world champion Julian Alaphilippe is riding on the front, burying himself on behalf of his Deceuninck-Quick Step teammate Mark Cavendish. What a sight to behold.

03:21 PM

2km to go

Deceuninck-Quick Step is drilling it on the front, approaching those two 90º turns in the perfect position.

03:20 PM

3km to go

And the general classification riders can breathe a sigh of relief.

03:19 PM

Guarnieri crash!

Arnaud Démare’s lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri crashes, the Groupama-FDJ rider’s day is over, but can the team’s sprinter go on to challenge for this stage?

03:19 PM

4km to go

Deceuninck-Quick Step ride on the front, world champion Julian Alaphilippe is in their line of riders just ahead of Mark Cavendish, who is riding at the sixth wheel.

03:18 PM

5km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge watch each other, both are still riding, but surely their day will soon be over.

03:16 PM

6km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge lose almost 20sec on the peloton. Groupama-FDJ shifts up towards the front alongside Deceuninck-Quick Step, while Alpecin-Fenix is also positioned near the pointy end of the bunch.

03:14 PM

8km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge have managed to increase their lead on the front, growing out to 40sec. Given the horsepower on the front of the peloton, you would imagine that is not enough of a charge for the pair today.

03:12 PM

10km to go

Ineos Grenadiers move to the front, doing their general classification thing, making sure Richard Carapaz and Geraint Thomas are staying out of the way of any impending dangers. Deceuninck-Quick Step wastes little time in riding around them, determined to take pole position on the run-in.

03:07 PM

15km to go

Worth remembering the 3km is in action today, and so the general classification teams are, as it stands, jostling for prime real estate on the road to Châteauroux as they do their best to keep their leaders safe and out of harm’s way. By contrast, the sprinters’ teams will be making sure or at least trying to, that their faster are perfectly positioned ahead of what we expect will be a sprint finish.

03:04 PM

16.5km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge are being hung out on a very short leash, but when are those sprinters’ teams going to yank them back into the bunch?

03:01 PM

20km to go

Having spent all day out in front, Greg Van Avermaet will soon be reacquainting himself with the peloton, as will Roger Kluge. The pair lead by just 14sec as they pass beneath the 20 km-to-go banners.

02:56 PM

25km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge are holding to their slim advantage – 29sec – which will vanish very soon once the sprinters’ teams start to ramp things up on this fast run-in.

02:48 PM

35km to go

It’s that man Tim Declercq, the man they call El Tractor, pulling on the front for Deceuninck-Quick Step, though the amiable Belgian has been sharing the duties with a couple of Alpecin-Fenix riders. As mentioned at the start of the day, both hope to set their fasten up for the stage win. But it is not a given that Mark Cavendish, Tim Merlier, or Jasper Philipsen will be raising their arms in celebration. The breakaway gap has dropped slightly; they will indeed be reined in before what promises to be a speedy finish today.

Alpecin-Fenix – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – REUTERS

02:40 PM

Cavendish favorite to win today

Though far from scientific, I posted a poll on Twitter earlier asking who would win today, the overriding favorite being a certain Mark Cavendish. Do you agree, or think it will be somebody else? Have your say at the bottom of the page, or tweet me: @JohnMacLeary.

02:33 PM

Points classification latest | 45km to go

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) moves up to second in the points classification, and trails mark Cavendish by just 10 points now, while Nacer Bouhanni leapfrogs Mathieu van der Poel to third. However, with 50 points up for grabs at the finishing line today, one suspects the stage win will play a more significant role in the final destination of that garment rather than the intermediate. Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge’s advantage, meanwhile, has dropped to 35sec.

02:21 PM

Intermediate sprint details

Greg Van Avermaet opens his account in the points classification by winning the intermediate sprint ahead of Roger Kluge. In contrast, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) wins the sprint from the following bunch. Following that sprint, the recently crowned Italian national champion had something to say to Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), and I don’t think it was too complimentary.

02:13 PM

60km to go

Tension is rising in the peloton as teams make sure they are all information on the approach to the intermediate sprint in Luçay-Le-Mâle, where Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge will take the lion’s share of points up for grabs – 20 and 17 – before the peloton battles for the remaining points in the race for the green jersey:

15, 13, 11, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one point respectively for the following 13 riders over the line in Luçay-Le-Mâle.

02:07 PM

Yellow jersey to perform lead-out role?

Possibly not, according to the man himself who spoke to television’s Daniel Friebe ahead of the start to today’s stage . . .

02:00 PM

68km to go | Friends reunited

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), two riders who know each other inside out, have raced each other since the juniors in cyclo-cross, may both be getting involved once today’s stage heats up on the approach to Châteauroux. Still, the great rivals appear to be on friendly terms. For now, at least.

Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – EPA

The breakaway’s lead has dropped slightly, down to 1min 12sec.

01:52 PM

75km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge are 21.4km away from the intermediate sprint in Luçay-Le-Mâle, and their narrow lead has dropped to 1min 16sec. That gap will surely fall further still once the peloton nears Luçay-Le-Mâle, where there will be points up for grabs for those hoping to challenge for the green jersey that currently rests on the shoulders of Mark Cavendish.

01:41 PM

85km to go

A few minutes ago, Greg Van Avermaet opened his account in the mountains classification, taking the only point up for grabs today in that particular competition atop the côte De Saint-Aignan. If he finishes today’s stage safely and within the time limit, then Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) will again wear the polka dot jersey during tomorrow’s stage as a leader in the mountains. Meanwhile, that breakaway is not shifting as it holds at 1min 30sec.

01:28 PM

95km to go

Thankfully relatively quiet out on the road right now, the two-man breakaway of Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge has seen its lead drop to 1min 30sec. In contrast, Alpecin-Fenix has two riders on the front of the bunch and the Deceuninck-Quick Step diesel Tim Declercq, while a posse of Movistar riders follows the trio.

Roger Kluge sits on the wheel of Greg Van Avermaet – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – GETTY IMAGES

01:23 PM

Cavendish interview: ‘Each day I think how lucky I am.’

Published in today’s print edition of Telegraph Sport and posted on the website last night, colleague Tom Cary spoke with Mark Cavendish the day after his 31st stage win at the Tour de France. In it, he talks about family, teammates, his chances of reaching Paris, and today’s finale in Châteauroux, where he won stages in 2008 and 2011.

Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crossed the line in Châteauroux back in 2008 – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – GETTY IMAGES.

“Like I said last week, I was never worried about the sprint stages. It’s more the mountains that are unknown to me. I know the work I’ve put in to prepare for the sprints and the team I have around me. That’s what gives me confidence. Honestly, I sit each day on the bus and look around and think how lucky I am. Sitting behind Michael Morkov, who is behind Davide Ballerini, and if something happens to Ballerini like it did on Wednesday, then you have Julian… the list goes on.”

01:09 PM

110km to go

Greg Van Avermaet and Roger Kluge’s advantage is holding at around two minutes. It looks like a lovely day out in France, perfect riding conditions – bright and sunny, but not too hot, with a slight breeze. Back in the bunch, almost all of the teams – certainly those with designs on today’s stage and those containing general classification contenders – are information protecting their leaders.

12:58 PM

119km to go

Greg Van Avermaet eases off the pace a little, allowing Roger Kluge to latch on. One suspects the pair would have preferred some company and not look too happy riding out in front. Both have enough experience and miles in the legs to know that once the likes of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Alpecin-Fenix, Groupama-FDJ, DSM, and Bora-Hansgrohe get to work, they stand very little chance of taking the stage win. One gets the impression Van Avermaet has been rolled over here, and he may feel a bit daft riding in a two-man breakaway.

12:48 PM

Van Avermaet the last man standing

In his golden helmet and equally shiny shoes, Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), the outgoing Olympic road race champion, is the lone leader in this quite strange stage. He’s not a rider you would expect to see going off on a solo attack, but this Tour just keeps throwing up some quite unique storylines, so who knows?

Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal), who ordinarily plays a vital role in the lead-out for the departed sprinter Caleb Ewan, is stuck in no man’s land between Van Avermaet and the following peloton. Back in the bunch, meanwhile, the riders are taking on some liquids and chatting among themselves in a brief moment of relaxation.

12:42 PM

Three is, perhaps, the magic number.

A trio of Arkéa-Samsic riders, including former British national road champion Connor Swift and flâneur-deluxe Warren Barguil, are riding hard on the front of the peloton. Any rumor that Nacer Bouhanni told them he would box their ear in if the gap is not closed cannot be confirmed – mainly because I made that up.

12:30 PM

As it stands . . .

It was a rapid start to the stage, and a surprisingly strong-looking eight-man breakaway led the way. Kasper As green (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jonas Rickert (Alpecin-Fenix), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), and Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) wasted little time in shuffling their way off the front and off up the road. However, as it stands, their advantage is just under a minute, having covered just over 20 kilometers.

The highest placed rider in the breakaway is As green, who started the day in the 11th spot at 1min 49sec, though one suspects the Dane has not put himself in the breakaway for his own personal gain. With riders from Deceuninck-Quick Step, DSM, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Alpecin-Fenix being in this breakaway – all have sprinters capable of winning this stage – the responsibility for chasing has been dumped into the shoulders of Groupama-FDJ. Stefan Küng has been riding on the front of the peloton, on behalf of his team’s sprinter Arnaud Démare, along with a few from Arkéa-Samsic (for Nacer Bouhanni). By contrast, Deceuninck-Quick Step, Alpecin-Fenix et al. are getting a free ride, in other words using as little energy as possible, which may make a difference in Châteauroux later on this afternoon.

11:25 AM

So, what’s on today’s menu?

Featured 926 meters of vertical elevation and just one categorized climb – the category four côte De Saint-Aignan that tops out 88km from the finishing line – today’s stage appears the perfect stage on which a sprinter can shine, especially with its near pan-flat last few kilometers and practically dead straight finishing straight.

Tour de France stage six profile – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – ASO

The final five kilometers (below) see barely any elevation change. However, there is a slight incline on the approach to the flame rouge, the one kilometer to go marker, that is barely visible on the stage profile, though it may have a small say in how the stage plays out.

Stage six finale – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008

As witnessed in 1998, 2008, and 2011, the finishing line is ideally suited for a bunch sprint finish. There are a couple of 90º turns in the last 2,200 meters, but of most relevance, the final 1,500 meters are arrow straight to the line.

Stage six finale – Tour de France en route to Chateauroux – scene of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in 2008 – ASO

Given that we are expecting a sprinter to win the stage, it will surprise nobody to discover that there is a maximum of 70 points up for grabs in the race for the green jersey for the first rider over the intermediate sprint and then, of course, the finishing line in Châteauroux. Here’s a breakdown of what’s available . . .

With Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) now out of the race following his high-speed crash during the finale of stage three, I think you would have to say the favorites for the stage today are Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) or Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix). Both have fantastically well-drilled teams who have proven time and again they can deliver the goods when it matters most. Apparently, there is some confusion over whether Alpecin-Fenix will be working for Merlier or Jasper Philipsen today. Still, either way, you would have to say they will be the team Deceuninck-Quick Step, probably, fearing most on the approach to Châteauroux.

Not that it will be a two-horse race. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has struggled to impress thus far at this year’s Tour and will be desperate to challenge, while Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) may also be given free rein to attack and go for a shot at personal glory. It must be said that DSM continually impresses with their lead-outs at the Tour. Still, Cees Bol has, as yet, failed to finish the job off. Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), who finished third in Tuesday’s sprint finish, will be hoping to get back in the ring, but can he spoil the Cavendish party and deliver the knockout blow?

10:20 AM

Catch-up: Highlights of yesterday’s stage . . .

. . . can be watched here . . .

10:20 AM

Bonjour!

Hello to our live rolling blog from stage six at the Tour de France, the 160.6-kilometer run from Tours to Châteauroux.

Following yesterday’s quite staggering performance from Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), the defending champion is already looking for a shoo-in to win this year’s Tour. However, as we have seen over the opening few stages, a slight touch of wheels, an errant roadside spectator, or a brief moment of lapses concentration can scupper a riders’ hopes and dreams within the blink of an eye.

Today’s stage, though, is expected to favor the sprinters – the Tour has had just three finishes in Châteauroux, all of them concluding in a sprint. The winners? Mario Cipollini in 1998, and Mark Cavendish in both 2008 and 2011. Before we look at the stage, though, here’s a reminder of who will be wearing what jersey today.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) will be dressed in the Maillot Jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey. The Dutchman takes an eight-second lead over Pogacar into today’s stage while the Dutchman’s rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is third at 30sec.

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will wear the maillot vert, the green jersey, for the first time on an open road stage – he had a green skin suit for Tuesday’s time trial – since July 12, 2016, as a leader in the points classification, the competition he won in 2011.

There were no changes in the mountains classification on Tuesday. So for the fifth successive day, Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be dressed in the maillot à pois, the polka dot jersey, a competition the Dutchman who was born one meter above sea level has led for four days – he wore it on behalf of Van der Poel for one stage.

Defending champion Pogacar will again wear the maillot blanc, or the white jersey, as the best young rider ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in second and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ). They dropped to third after the Frenchman’s disappointing time trial.