The Greatest Sprinter Ever?

Friday, 23 July 2010


[insert superlative here]

Mark Cavendish has now won four stages in this year’s Tour. Any rider who bagged four stages during their entire career would be considered pretty useful but four in one tour is exceptional.

Cavendish’s total now stands at 14 stage wins. That puts him just one win short of übersprinter Freddy Maertens. Here’s the table of stage wins:

1. Eddy Merckx, 34
2. Bernard Hinault, 28
=3. Andre Leducq, 25
=3. Lance Armstrong, 25
5. André Darrigade, 22
6. Nicolas Frantz, 20
7. Francois Faber, 19
8. Jean Alavoine, 17
=9. Charles Pelissier, 16
=9. René Le Greves, 16
=9. Jacques Anquetil, 16
10. Freddy Maertens, 15
~ Mark Cavendish, 14

Note the best sprinter on the list is André Darrigade with 22 wins. Another eight wins and Cavendish achieves numerical equality.

Remember Cavendish is still classed as a ‘Young Rider’ in this year’s Tour, he’s only 25. Some say sprinters age and lose their jump. But tell that to Julian Dean, 35, Thor Hushovd, 32, Robbie McEwen, 38 and Alessandro Petacchi, 36. It’s quite possible that we’re watching the greatest sprinter of all time.

  • No mention of Cavendish is complete without touching on his personality and character. His manners have their plus points and their downsides but it’s part of who he is, he was written off several times and he see. Maybe his helmet sponsors can make an adjustable model to accomodate the way his head grows bigger and bigger? Until then, he’s still a wonder to watch.

Photo: cyclingnews.com

jacob July 23, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I don't have enough historical experience to give it context, but in my Tour-watching lifetime (starting with the Lemond years), no one has been even close to this dominant. What is apparent about Cav is that, peloton-surfing skills and last-10k-savvy aside, he is just simply noticeably, visibly faster than everyone else. Today, MSR last year, the 2nd stage he won in this Tour — his kick is just so clearly superior it's got to be almost deflating to his competition.

I don't want to read too much into it, but look at the picture above. Where is Petacchi looking? In every sprint I've ever been in, if I'm not in front, I'm laser-focused on the guy in front of me. Petacchi's not. Why? He's not competing with Cav. He's competing with everybody else.

Also, Peta's wins won't stand. Probably less than 2 weeks.

TheInnerRing July 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Interesting point on Petacchi, the Green Jersey competition could last for weeks.

David N. Welton July 24, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Petacchi was racing with Thor, and that's who he's looking for. If you watched that sprint carefully, the moment the real sprinting started in earnest, Thor started going backwards. So it may very well have been in Petacchi's interest to get 2nd or 3rd or something, but have Thor lose as many places as possible. I don't know if he actually calculated things like that, but it seemed to work out well.

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