Mark Cavendish was embraced warmly by Belgian legend Eddy Merckx before the start of Stage 19 of the Tour de France.
Merckx was at the start line to wish Cavendish good luck as the British rider attempts to break the 76-year-old’s long-standing stage wins record today.
Cameras showed Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) smiling broadly as Merckx approached and the two had a long hug.
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“I hope you win the stage today,” Merckx said as he embraced Cavendish.
'Come on! Show a bit of respect for my climbing!' - Cavendish on Stage 19 prospects
Cavendish holds the green jersey heading into the final stretch of the Tour de France and the points leader is trying to hold off a fightback from Team BikeExchange rider Michael Matthews.
With a 38 point cushion, Cavendish dismissed the suggestion he might struggle on the steeper parts of the race from Mourenx to Libourne.
“Come on, show a little respect for my climbing, it’s 1.7km. It’s not hilly, it goes up a little hill,” he said.
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“It’s never relaxing. I had the guys to get me through a hard three days. I think everyone is tired and we’re looking forward to trying to get into Paris.”
He added: “We’d like a sprint. If a big group goes with strong guys it’s difficult to control with little sprint teams.”
If Cavendish wins Stage 19, it will be the 35th win of his Tour de France career, putting him one ahead of Merckx.
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One man who does think Cavendish will break the record is Bradley Wiggins.
He said before the race: “Mark Cavendish has got through the tournament more comfortably than I think he thought he would. Tomorrow is a big day for him. Will he break it tomorrow?
"I think so. I don't think another rider can challenge in those sprints."
While Cavendish bids to make history, Tadej Pogacar is aiming to keep his grip on the yellow jersey.
The Slovenian has a near six-minute lead over his closest rival Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates are unlikely to let Pogacar’s lead slip at this stage of the Tour.
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