HISTORIC: Mark Cavendish equals Merckx’s record
Mark Cavendish, the 36-year-old rider from Deceuninck-QuickStep sprinted into the history books on Stage 13 of the Tour de France, by equalling Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins at the Tour, a record that has been held since 1975.
It was a 219.9km stage from Nîmes to Carcassonn which Cavendish started with three stage wins under his belt at this year’s Tour, and was just one win away from equalling Merckx’s record.
Only just a few months ago, Cavendish was doubting his cycling career and was close to retirement after suffering from a bout of depression and several seasons of struggles both on and off the bike. He signed a new contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep and was a late addition to the Tour de France team after replacing teammate Sam Bennett.
Being a late call up, Cavendish hadn’t trained specifically for the three-week race and hadn’t raced in the Tour since 2018.
After remarkably winning stages four, six and ten, all eyes were on Cavendish as the record was now very achievable. Just 300m from the finish line, Cavendish looked trapped in bunch sprint, but managed to zigzag his way out and launch to finish line, overtaking leader Michael Mørkøv.
"We made history," Cavendish said to teammate Davide Ballerini after the finish, but couldn’t comprehend any comparisons with Eddy Merckx or the record itself in post-race interviews.
“I haven’t realised, it’s just another win on the Tour de France," said Cavendish. "It’s like my first one. I’ve won a stage at the Tour de France, it’s what I’ve dreamed of as a kid. I’ve worked so hard for it.
"Cycling has grown so much in Britain since I started cycling, if any one of my wins inspires them to ride the Tour de France or the Tour de France Femmes, that’s what means the most to me."
It’s possible that “The Manx Missile” can surpass Merckx's record, with two more sprints in the final week of the Tour, ending with the Champs-Elysees finale in Paris where Cavendish has won a record four times.