A record! Mark Cavendish, who once again topped the sprint in the Tour de France, won the thirteenth stage of the Carcassonne on Friday and equaled the legendary Eddie Merks in the number of stage wins.
Thirteen years after the first tour wins, Cavendish has won a fourth time since leaving Brest. “Mark is a legend,” said his “pitcher” Dane Michael Morkov, who finished second on stage and will not be forced into the line-up.
“I do not want to be compared to Eddie Merks, the best runner of all time,” Cavendish said after his victory. “This is just another Tour de France win. It’s like my first.”
Cavendish, 36, who was almost unemployed at the end of last year, was able to find a team led by Patrick Lefebvre this season and return to the front row. He resumed success on the tour of Turkey in April and started the tour replacing the 2020 Green Jersey with Irishman Sam Bennett.
– Great mutual respect –
Beyond statistics, times and especially champions are not comparable. Merck, a five-time tour winner between 1969 and 1975, won in all territories. Cavendish had his 34 wins in the sprint.
“The greatest sprinter in the history of the Tour”, according to Christian Prudhomme, who led Grande Bouquet through Cavendish’s victories, points out the difference in rank for the first time. In 2003, Italian Mario Cipolini won the Zero for the 42nd time, breaking the record of “Campionisimo” Alfredo Binda.
“He’s won Zero five times and I’m not even qualified to polish his shoes,” said another sprint myth, Sipolini, who beat himself up at the age of 36 in the twilight of his career.
Merks and Cavendish have a lot of respect for each other since they had the opportunity to welcome Britain, a forty-year-old junior after the All-Round Champion cycling.
– Two more sprints in sight –
The Belgian will have the opportunity to congratulate him next Friday at the start of the Maureenx (Pyrenees-Atlantic), where Merks won one of his greatest exploits in 1969. To own the record of victories only. The other two great sprints in this 108th edition are Liborn (19th stage) and of course Paris (21st stage).
Although Cavendish’s success was facilitated by the absence of several specialists (leaving Ivan, Merlier, and Dimar), other racing facts were clipped at this point in the 220-kilometer stretch, often against the side wind. A collective fall 65km from Carcassonne caused Volta 2018 winners Britain to drop Simon Yates and two other riders (Klug, L. Hamilton).
Thadej Pogakar, wearing a yellow jersey, kept his property. As Inios’ team accelerated its approach to the final, his opponents noticed that the Slovenian was once again unprepared in front of Peloton.
Pogakar praised Cavendish’s performance: “I watched him when I was a kid, and he’s blown like a human fuse! What he’s doing now is so crazy, I have so much respect for him.” But he was particularly concerned about the consequences of the fall of Paul Rafael Majka, one of the climbers on his team: “It would be a huge loss if he could not continue.”
Phase 14 targets backpackers between Carcassonne and Quillon in the Ude Valley above Saturday. The 183.7 km long course includes five hills or passes in the valley of the Pyrenees.