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FOUGERES, FRANCE – JUNE 29: Winner Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Deceuninck – Quick Step, Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Team Bora-Hansgrohe (5th, left) during stage 4 of the 108th Tour de France 2021, a stage of 150 km from Redon to Fougeres / @LeTour / #TDF2021 / on June 29, 2021 in Fougeres, France. (Photo : John Berry/Getty Images)
Mark Cavendish claimed his first stage win in the Tour de France in five years after a dramatic sprint finish on stage four in Fougeres. The 36-year-old Brit turned back the clock on Tuesday, finishing ahead of Nacer Bouhanni and Jasper Philipsen.
Cavendish makes improbable comeback
It has been a remarkable journey for Cavendish who thought his racing days in the Tour de France were over. After being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus years ago, Cavendish also had to contend with a spate of injuries and clinical depression that further delayed his recovery. Cavendish struggled with his form as a result, failing to record a single victory in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
He has a found a new lease on life, however, with Deceuninck-QuickStep who signed him for the 2021 season. Cavendish registered five wins prior to the Tour de France and he was drafted in at the last minute to replace the injured Irish sprinter Sam Bennett for cycling’s biggest race.
Cavendish justified the faith shown in him by Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere, delivering a powerful finish on Tuesday to record his 31st stage victory in the Tour de France. Suddenly, Eddy Merckx’s all-time win record at this event is within reach again as Cavendish is now just three victories shy of Merckx’s tally of 34 stage wins.
Cavendish pays tribute to Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates
Cavendish’s improbable victory would not be possible, though, without the help of his teammates. Led by Julian Alaphilippe, they hunted down Belgium’s Brent van Moer who went solo with 14km remaining to establish a lead of around a minute at one stage. He faded, however, in the final 200 meters, allowing the chasing pack to pass through and provide the grandstand finish.
Cavendish took full advantage of the slipstream provided by lead-out man Michael Morkov, bursting out of the peloton to catch van Moer. He then rounded Philipsen before eventually finishing a bike length ahead of Bouhanni, winning the race with a time of three hours, 20 minutes and 17 seconds.
Cavendish was emotional after the race as he paid tribute to his teammates that helped him get back to the top of the podium. “I thought with 10 kilometers to go we weren’t going to get him (Van Moer). We were stressing a bit. But it shows how well my team can adapt. But then you see world champion Julian Alaphilippe throw everything he has away and sacrifice it all just to try and catch the break back and deliver me in the front,” Cavendish said.
With the victory, Cavendish grabbed possession of the green jersey, which he won in 2011.The overall leader’s yellow jersey, on the other hand, remained with Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel.
Cavendish’s win capped an eventful stage four that began with a riders’ protest after Monday’s crash-affected stage three. 2020 runner-up Primoz Roglic and former champion Geraint Thomas were among those that crashed in that chaotic stage. The peloton, led by the German sprinter André Greipe, came to a halt for a minute shortly after the rollout from Redon to protest the conditions leading to the said incidents.
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