Mark Cavendish makes history with record-breaking stage win at Tour de France

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Mark Cavendish made history with a record-breaking 35th stage win at the Tour de France, sprinting to victory in Saint-Vulbas.

Having missed out on the chance to contest the sprint finish on Stage 3 after being caught up in a crash, Cavendish surged to victory on Stage 5, surviving a chaotic dash to the line by showing all of his veteran nous.

Cavendish surpassed the great Eddy Merckx as the outright record-holder at the French Grand Tour having drawn alongside the Belgian in 2021.

The 39-year-old narrowly missed out on a historic victory in the colours of Astana Qazaqstan last year before crashing out of the race.

But having reversed a planned retirement at the end of 2023, Cavendish delivered to seize number victory number 35 at the race.

The Manx man, knighted earlier this year, won his first Tour stage in 2008 and produced a masterclass in sprinting 16 years on.

Mark Cavendish celebrated his historic win
Mark Cavendish celebrated his historic win (AFP via Getty Images)
Cavendish embraced his teammates after victory
Cavendish embraced his teammates after victory (Pool via REUTERS)

“I’m in a bit of disbelief,” a beaming Cavendish said after making history. “Astana took a big gamble on me this year to come here to try and win at least one stage. You know you have to go all in, and we’ve done it.

“We knew what we wanted to do, how we’ve built the team, the equipment. Every little detail we put towards specifically today.

“The Tour de France is bigger than cycling. It normally takes me days to get into it. I’ve done 15 Tours de France now, and I don’t like to have bad days, but I know that if you can get through it you are going to have an opportunity.

“We didn’t nail it as a team like we wanted to do, but the boys improvised and got me there in the best position. It’s definitely beneficial to be able to use your head a bit more.”

After his Astana colleagues had controlled the run-in on a relatively sedate stage, a messy sprint saw the veteran abandon his leadout train and instead weave between the wheels of his rivals, picking his moment to put the power down on his pedals.

Cavendish hit the front with line in sight and held off Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Jasper Philipsen, with the Belgian unable to close the gap.

Out Cavendish’s arms spread in familiar fashion, with long-time foe Alexander Kristoff seen celebrating behind and young gun Arnaud De Lie also providing a congratulatory slap of the back.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after avoiding crashing into a central reservation 57km from the finish with several riders just behind him hitting the deck.

Cavendish was greeted by his young family
Cavendish was greeted by his young family (Pool via REUTERS)

Embracing long-time leadout man Mark Renshaw, who guided him to so many stage wins early in his career and is now a directeur sportif at Astana, Cavendish soaked up the emotion of the day before being mobbed by his family.

“It’s unbelievable,” former colleague and close friend Geraint Thomas told ITV. “I’m super happy for him. To continue to do what he does at his age — everyone says you get slower as you get older but he has proved that wrong.

“I thought he could. I called it on my podcast! He always has a bad day in the mountains but I knew he could get through it. He just has to be there and when he sees the finish line, he’s got a shout. Chapeau!”

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