Cavendish corners Merckx

The Englishman achieves his third victory on this Tour, the 33rd of his career, placing him within a shot of the Cannibal's historical record. It was worth suffering in the Alps.


Two days before, Mark Cavendish crossed the finish line 35:49 minutes behind the winner, the heroic Ben O'Connor, escorted by his faithful Tim Leclerq and Michael Morkov, who accompanied him on the ordeal of the last climb, Tignes, which crowned a torture of five ports, concentrated in 150 kilometers, under the freezing rain. Cavendish celebrated the end of the procession with his two colleagues as if he had won the stage, visibly moved. The Englishman had dodged the out of control, while two other sprinters, Arnaud Démare and Bryan Coquard, had failed in the attempt, and a third, Tim Merlier, had fallen by the wayside. Cav knew how to empty himself and today he is grateful for it. He saved the green jersey and, above all, saved the horizon from sprinting again on this Tour ... And getting a little closer to that historic record of 34 stage wins by Eddy Merckx. The Briton achieved his third victory in Valence in this edition, which is the 33rd of his career, and he is already within reach of Cannibal. It was worth suffering in the Alps.

The 2021 Tour got back on track after the rest day in Albertville, an Olympic town, with all the spotlights on Cavendish. In this second week there were three possibilities of massive arrivals, at least in theory. The first was aimed at Valence, a goal in which other contemporary sprinters such as André Greipel and Peter Sagan had already inscribed his name. An ideal place for the Isle of Man racing car to add another notch to its track record. The question inevitably arose at the start: Merckx's record? And Cav avoided the question again. Out of superstition, to ease the pressure ... For now, he prefers not to talk about it. A different attitude than Eddy himself, who has already gone under: "Cavendish will never win the Tour five times." The Cannibal is an ambitious athlete even in retirement.

The Deceuninck locomotive left him victory on a tray this time, with a double launch, first by Davide Ballerini and then by the infallible Morkov, who, in a football simile, put the ball just to push it. "I didn't do anything in particular, only 150 meters," the winner later admitted. Cavendish beat Wout van Aert, who has forgotten his fight for the general classification to fight in the packaging, and Jasper Philipsen, who continues to add leading positions, one second and two third, without the ability to finish the job. Cav will have to suffer again this Wednesday with two climbs to Mont Ventoux, the mythical Giant of Provence, and on Thursday, at the finish line of Nîmes, and even on Friday, in Carcassonne, he will have two more opportunities to equalize or beat Eddy Merckx. Until then, hush. It sprints.

Beyond the fight of the speed wolves, the stage did not have much history. The getaway of the day, starring Hugo Houle and Tosh van der Sande, never had any signs of success. There were falls, as usual, among them those of two roosters like Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte, or that of a world champion like Mads Pedersen, but without serious consequences. Only the wind and the momentum of the Deceuninck, which was joined by the Jumbo with Jonas Vingegaard in the first person, threatened a cut 15 kilometers from the goal, but the thing did not go beyond a good heater to keep the head and the corresponding whip for the furthest behind. Then came the sprint. You know: Mark Cavendish territory. The cannibal of the last straight.

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