Friday, July 12, 2024

Cavendish breaks Tour de France stage wins record, eyes more wins | The Express Tribune

Mark Cavendish says he will not stop hunting for more Tour de France stage wins after finally breaking the record he shared with Belgian great Eddy Merckx on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old sprint king blew away his rivals in the fifth stage of this year’s race, his legs pumping him to the front of the bunch before he roared over the line with arms aloft at the end of a 177-km ride to Saint-Vulbas.

Cavendish had been stuck on 34 Tour de France stage wins since 2021 after not being selected in 2022 and then crashing out of the race last year after narrowly failing to break the record in Bordeaux because of a mechanical problem.

But on Wednesday the Astana-Qazaqtsan rider’s decision to postpone his retirement was fully vindicated as he underlined his standing as one of Britain’s greatest ever sportsmen.

Former team mate Geraint Thomas was one of the first to congratulate Cavendish.

“It’s unbelievable, I am super happy for him. It is great he has the record alone and is not sharing it with anyone,” former Tour de France winner Thomas said.

“I said to him, ‘mate, if you win this stage just drop your bike and walk away’ — but he was like, ‘If I win the first one, I’ll want to win more’.

“So he’s definitely going to hang around, isn’t he.”

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme added: “Everyone has a smile today, even Eddy Merckx!”

“Passion for the sport”

Once the dust had settled on his record-breaking feat, Cavendish, who was watched by his wife Petra and children, said it would be back to business as usual.

“First and foremost I’m trying to enjoy it and secondly try to be successful again because that’s fundamentally our job and I love this race,” he told reporters.

“I always have loved this race. I love this race when I ride, I love this race when I watch it and I’ll always give it 100% so we’ll continue to do that and we’ll continue to try and win bunch sprints.”

It was the 165th career victory for Cavendish and his win came 16 years after his first Tour de France stage win in 2008 — an astonishing time span in a brutal sport.

“Mark’s long and storied career, his passion for the sport and his tenacious pursuit for excellence make him a real inspiration for the next generation of bike riders looking to follow in his footsteps,” British Cycling’s performance director Stephen Park said on Wednesday.

“He is one of our country’s truly great sportsmen and sporting personalities, and it has been a privilege to have watched him reign supreme for all these years.”

According to Cavendish’s first cycling coach back in his native Isle of Man, he was always destined for greatness.

“When I began coaching Mark as a young boy, I always knew he would go on to achieve amazing things,” 74-year-old Dot Tilbury said. “After this victory there can be no doubt that he is the greatest sprinter of all time.”

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