Bradley Wiggins says the media and cycling fans should celebrate Mark Cavendish for overcoming illness and injury to return to the Tour and not worry about him chasing Eddy Merckx's stage win record.
The 36-year-old has returned to the Tour de France for the first time since 2018 as part of Deceuninck-Quick-Step's eight-man squad and currently sits on 30 stage wins. Only Merckx has more on 34.
On Thursday Cavendish posted an Anakin Skywalker meme on Twitter about him going or not going for Merckx's record.
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Cavendish was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus in spring 2017 and suffered with it up until May 2019 before a series of crashes and injuries plagued his quest to return back to the top of the sport.
Wiggins says the fact Cavendish is racing at the Tour de France this year should be celebrated as well as his decorated career in the sport.
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"Mark’s taken a lot of stick but people need to now bow down to this man a bit more. He’s the ****ing real deal," he said on the Bradley Wiggins Show.
"He’s earned his stripes over the years. He’s part of the fabric of the Tour de France. He deserves to be there, he needs to be there, the race needs him, and it’s just a breath of fresh air having him back.
"**** Eddy Merckx, he’s the greatest of all-time. I don’t mean **** Eddy Merckx personally, I mean Merckx is in his own world, he’s in another dimension. He’s like Muhammad Ali.
"There’s no one better than Eddy Merckx. Never should be, never will be.
It's not about him beating Merckx's record. It's about Cavendish getting 31 stage wins and we should celebrate that and journalists should celebrate that.
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"It's always the same ****ing rhetoric. 'Ah, you're going to go for Merckx's record'. What about Mark being back at the Tour for starters. Well done, congratulations. And then if you win a stage what a great way that is to come back from what you've been through. It's always the same.
"Celebrate what he has done and what he could do. Who is going to beat Merckx anyway? The fact is he got close we could celebrate.
"Mark is the greatest sprinter of all time and that is that. Eddie is the greatest cyclist of all time. The rest doesn't matter. Will another sprinter ever try and beat the record of Cavendish? That's what we should be saying. Will we see another sprinter get the same amount of stage wins as Cavendish? It's not about Merckx.
Celebrate him while we're here. Because when he's gone the sport will be lesser for it.
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