Mark Cavendish’s Happy 21st

Cavendish sprint tournai

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.

1 Eddy Merckx 34
2 Bernard Hinault 28
3 André Leducq 25
4= Lance Armstrong 22
4= André Darrigade 22
6 Mark Cavendish 21
7 Nicolas Frantz 20
8 François Faber 19
10 Jean Alavoine 17
10 Charles Pélissier 16
10 René Le Greves 16
10 Jacques Anquetil 16

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.

33 thoughts on “Mark Cavendish’s Happy 21st”

  1. Speaking of aero helmets I was quite surprised that Greipel wasn’t wearing one – I’m sure I’ve seen him in one in previous races and Greg Henderson was wearing one in front of him. It’s complete speculation of course but if these aero helmets actually work maybe it would have been a different result today.

    What a great sprint today though. Absolutely thrilling!

  2. What a triumph for the “aero” helmet marketing gimmick! It wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference but I can hear people thinking “maybe that’s what I need to go a bit faster…”

    • Aerodynamics is one of the “smarts” that Cav has developed as a key tool in his quiver. Apart from a no vent helmet (which he emulated by using a non-“legal” helmet cover at the 2011 world champs), Cav is also wearing a skinsuit which is significantly more aerodynamic than the regular jerseys worn by some of his competitors. Cav’s sprint position is also about as aerodynamic as a roadie sprinter can get. This aspect of his sprinting alone is a huge element contributing to his success and he pays attention to such things. It also serves to save energy during the race.

      Yes, there are many factors involved in Cav’s success, and superior aerodynamics is one of them.

      In terms of cycling against the clock, aero helmets can and do make a large difference, worth up to several seconds per kilometre, although the impact for any individual will vary*. No aero helmet is the best helmet for everyone, it depends on the individual’s aerodynamic characteristics as to which best provides the greatest aero benefit.

      • each individual element- the aero helmet, the skin suit etc- is probably worth only a small amount. What team Sky/Team GB have worked on is the idea that if you combine lots of half a seconds, they can add up into full seconds.

  3. There are so many young guys sprinting on the Tour nowadays, the end for Cav could come quicker than we expect. From one year to the next, à la Zabel, he could become an eternel second.
    I was cheering for him today, but I reckon he’ll do well for this year and next and then maybe the odd win thereafter. Enough to get up to the Badger’s shoulder perhaps, but not the Cannibal’s.

    Also enough reason to think about a different team if Sky’s focus will be permanently elsewhere? After all, next year he’ll be after that green jersey.

    • I disagree. Cav will be winning Tour stages for the next 5 years and then some. Once he starts losing his devastating kick a little look for him to move to a team where he will have a dedicated train at his disposal to set him up. I still remember previous years where Cav had those trains and Renshaw as his last leadout man. Cav was winning tour stages by up to 10 bike lengths, amazing stuff.

      I should add a disclaimer – no I’m not British.

    • I’d add that the historical trajectory for world class sprinters has been to morph into competent classics riders. Cav won’t continue to wni 5-6 Tour sprints into his 30s, but its not unreasonable to expect him to bag another MSR and compete in all the Belgian classics bar LBL and Flanders.

  4. Fantastic sprint! Cav had his physical and mental work cut out for him today! His tactics were spot on, navigating through the bunch to find the wheel he wanted, Greipel’s. Talk about a wind-block for the perfect lead-out. On the overhead view, Greipel’s style can really be seen, throwing his bike side-to-side.
    Compare his style to Cavendish, whose energy is put more into raw, forward motion and not losing speed/power with energy lost as with Greipel’s side-to-side motion.

    EBH and Eisel were there in the lead-up, but it was all Cav in the finale.

    Amazing that the peleton made it through that final narrow right turn without any crashes!

  5. I was surprised today by his lonely sprint. it’s not the first nor the last we’ll see this season.
    loooking back to cav recent defeats (petacchi giro 2011 and greipel tour 2011) you can say he’s beatable when somebody jumps his wheel, in this tour it’d be difficoult. imbattable?

  6. I hope Kittel or Greipel or whoever slows his win rate at least, it wouldn’t be right him being the stage win record holder. 1-2 / year I’m content with. He’s fast. I just can’t stand him winning that much.

  7. A bit of a left field suggestion and he’d have to take a pay cut but Argos Shimano would be a good team for Cav.

    A great win today. His positioning was superb. You can’t teach that.

  8. No surprse to see that Top 3 of Cav, Greipel & Goss. Main thing for me was that Sagan was not there… Thought he may have challenged a bit better, but then again his legs may have lacked a little after yesterday’s big win.

    Maybe Sagan & Cav will be going for different stages…??

    • Watch that final kilometer again with an eye on Sagan’s green jersey. I was struck by how easily he was bumped off the wheel he wanted by other more seasoned riders. Sagan was in the perfect spot on Greipel’s wheel at the end of the Lotto train. First Cav moved him off Greipel’s wheel and then Goss moved him off Cav’s wheel. Finally Veelers moved him off Goss’s wheel. If Sagan would have held Greipel’s wheel maybe no one would have got around him.

      Certainly he is fast enough, but maybe Sagan is not yet ready for prime time when it requires a fight for position.

    • And Petacchi moved him off Veeler’s wheel. The five guys that beat Sagan all either pushed him off a wheel or out dueled him for it. The guy will need to get tougher to win in a mass sprint with this field!

      • Keep in mind that Lotto and Orica-Greenedge both have dedicated sprint trains. Lotto had their train for Greipel and OGE had Goss protected (and Argos-Shimano has a dedicated train for Kittel (Veelers today), while Marcel had stomach issues).

        Cut Sagan some slack. He’s 22, still developing and learning everyday, but his record speaks for itself already! He may or may not develop into a pure sprinter, aside from his other exceptional attributes. Additionally, he has only Daniel Oss to lead him out. Hard for a rookie to push his way around against seasoned sprinters and sprint trains…and Cav will get his ideal position almost 100% of the time.

        And Petacchi is 38, winning sprints when Peter was just a kid:)
        Can’t yet put Sagan on the same level with these guys, but you can imagine what he’ll be accomplishing in a couple of years! Maybe a true all-rounder, winning everywhere except the high mountains.

        Watch out, he won’t disappoint!

    • IMO he missed a few opportunities to more up. He is only 22 after all. but he played it smart to get enough point for the Green jersey and he is probably savvy enough to play it for a long while. There are a lot of point on the road and if he gets Oss as a leadout for the intermediates, watchout.

  9. Interesting to note that this podium is the same as last years World Championships, albeit with Goss’ and Greipel’s positions reversed

  10. That was a truly perfect sprint. Griepel must be absolutely pissed. There’s no excuse that was a pure drag race. 1km out I thought Cav wouldn’t make it since he was like 20th back but the guy sure know how to move up the ranks. In 500 meters or so he moved to the perfect wheels coming out of nowhere. It’s also very hard to find him in the bunch from front-looking camera since his position is probably the lowest when sprint. this could save a tons of energy for other riders can wholly block the wind from him. I am glad he win the stage. Perfect for a world champ. No aid, no train.

    • I’m sure Greipel is pissed. What Cav has that many sprinters don’t have is what’s “upstairs.”
      His brain is able to handle all of the pertinent variables and make nano-second decisions. One of those is knowing how to maneuver from 20 riders back through a crowd, finding the best wheels and then dropping the hammer at the moment which usually guarantees him the win.

      The last wheel he had today was Greipel’s, who is almost as wide as he is tall (just kidding);
      but Greipel’s body provided the perfect slipstream for Cav and when he needed him no more, the hammer dropped and it was all over.

      The whole reason Greipel went to Lotto was to not have to be Cav’s “slave” any longer. He wanted
      to win his own races outright, and he is, but Cav is still the best, at least for now. Same for Goss.

      • Cav is certainly fantastic on the “Upstair Apartment”. Think about it, he actually worked at a bank for two years to gain money to support himself during his early cycling carrier.

  11. I’d like to think that the best sprinter on the day won, rather that if Greipel would have worn the “new aero – no vents” helmet it could have been closer?

  12. Interesting that for all the work that Robbie McEwen and Green Edge are putting into the last 5km of the race that they didnt really execute as well as Lotto. Did you hear Cav talk about the last 1km? Incredible how he knew the wind direction, where he needed to be, what rider to follow in the last 1km (Oscar Freire) and when to pull the trigger. The guy is only 27 right? Master of his craft.

  13. …so Cavendish won after Lotto, Argos, GreenEdge, and Rabobank provided the workload and spared Team Sky. If this isn’t a surprise! 🙂

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