With his win today in Tournai Mark Cavendish’s total of Tour de France stage wins stands at 21 stage wins, placing him in sixth place on the all time list of Tour stage winners. This puts him above übersprinter Freddy Maertens and now only one win away from André Darrigade, the French sprinter who took 22 stage wins from 14 Tour de France appearances.
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Labels such as a “greatest sprinter ever” are debatable. But one win away from Darrigade means in the Tour de France Cavendish is fast approaching numerical superiority. Such is his monopoly that he has time on his side to close in on the likes of Lance Armstrong, Bernard Hinault and even Eddy Merckx. Aged 27, Cavendish has time on his side to achieve more wins.
Sometimes the past can seem remote, we can view the black and white images of Merckx or Darrigade in a different light. But as I’ve said on here before, sometimes days like this let you see riders making their place in the history of the sport.
Cavendish got the sprint just right, using André Greipel bulk and speed as a the perfect windbreak before popping him on the line. Today’s win in also notable for the 1-2-3 with André Greipel in second place and Matthew Goss in third place. All three spent their formative years with the Highroad team (under the sponsorship of HTC, Colombia etc).
We didn’t get to see Marcel Kittel sprint today, the German is suffering from stomach problems. A clue came early, he wasn’t wearing one of the “aero” helmets favoured by sprinters this year which have no vents to help improve their aerodynamics. Instead he was using a normal vented helmet, presumably to help keep the temperature down.