Tour de France cycling 2021 - Mark Cavendish makes it 33 Tour wins with another stunning sprint win
Another textbook lead-out from Deceuninck-QuickStep saw Mark Cavendish win a third stage of the 2021 Tour de France to bring up his 33rd victory on the world’s biggest bike race. The Manxman beat Belgians Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen in Stage 10 to move within one victory of Eddy Merckx’s all-time Tour record.
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They say once is a mistake, twice a pattern, and three times a habit… Well, Mark Cavendish’s renewed addiction to winning Tour de France stages continued on Tuesday in Valence as the Manx Missile struck to secure a hat-trick of wins ahead of the halfway point of the race.
Cavendish’s remarkable comeback continued after he pinged from the wheel of Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Michael Morkov on the home straight to power to his 33rd career win on the Tour ahead of Belgian duo Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix).
Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) and Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) completed the top five. Such was the emphatic nature of Morkov’s leadout that the Danish veteran picked up sixth place ahead of Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) – the last two riders to win in Valance back in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
Crosswinds off the back of an uncategorised climb 30km from the finish of the 190km stage from Albertville made for a tense finale and saw some splits in the peloton – with the yellow jersey, Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates, momentarily caught out before the Slovenian fought back on.
Ineos Grenadiers, EF Education-Nippo, AG2R-La Mondiale and Bora-Hansgrohe all tried to cause some more damage in the final 10km but Deceuninck-QuickStep restored order entering the final few kilometres as they pulled their man in green towards what seemed like an inevitable win.
Cavendish extended his lead in the green jersey standings by 59 points over Matthews, with Italian champion Sonny Colbrelli – who could only finish 17th in the stage – slipping 82 points in arrears despite a good showing in the intermediate sprint from the Bahrain-Victorious rider.
Defending champion Pogacar rallied to retain his 2’01” lead over the Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R-La Mondiale) ahead of Wednesday’s double ascent of Mont Ventoux.
'Humbled' Cavendish thanks his team after another historic Tour stage win
On what seemed like a second day of rest for the majority of the protagonists, the peloton showed no reaction when Belgium’s Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) and Canada’s Hugo Houle (Astana-PremierTech) zipped clear as the race left Albertville along the bank of the Isere.
The advantage of the two escapees peaked out at around five minutes on the only categorised climb of the day, the Col de Couz, before coming down ahead of the intermediate sprint at La Placette.
Coming at the top of a slight climb, the sprint saw Cavendish’s rivals take the initiative by distancing the 36-year-old enough that he missed out on adding to his green jersey tally. In his absence, Colbrelli soared past Matthews as both riders kept up the pressure on Cavendish in the green jersey battle.
But the good fortune would not last for Colbrelli, who picked up a puncture with 28km remaining after Deceuninck-QuickStep upped the tempo in a cross-tailwind once the two leaders had been swept up on the last uphill test of the day.
After a slow bike change, Colbrelli managed to fight back on – and although he was not involved in the later splits when the yellow jersey was caught napping, the Italian champion failed to impose himself in the finale as his long wait for an elusive stage win on a Grand Tour continued.
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With six kilometres remaining Cavendish had six teammates in front of him, including the world champion Julian Alaphilippe, whose earlier tempo-setting had cause much of the damage in the blustery winds.
No other team had a sniff was Kasper Asgreen peeled off under the flamme rouge to hand the baton over to Davide Ballerini and Morkov. Van Aert and Bouhanni did their best to stick to the man in green’s back wheel, but they were unable to match him for pace or positioning once Morkov fired Cavendish like a slingshot to his 33rd win on the Tour.
Just one more and Merckx’s record will be equalled – setting up the mouth-watering possibility that a rider who had been written off by so many could well become the Tour’s leading stage winner either on the Champs-Elysees or even before.
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