Cavendish claims solo Tour stage record with 35th win

Glenn Moore |

Mark Cavendish wins at Saint Vulbas to complete a record 35th Tour de France stage win.
Mark Cavendish wins at Saint Vulbas to complete a record 35th Tour de France stage win.

Mark Cavendish has cemented his record as cycling’s greatest sprinter with a record-breaking 35th career Tour de France stage win.

Victory in stage five of this year’s tour in Saint-Vulbas, southern France, finally moved him clear of Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.

Three years after matching the rider generally accepted as the greatest of all-time with win number 34 during the 2021 Tour, Cavendish completed what his Astana-Qazaqstan team named “Project 35”.

Cavendish, Cees Bol
Cavendish is congratulated by Astana Qazaqstan teammate Cees Bol after his record 35th stage win. (EPA PHOTO)

The team bossed the front of the peloton for much of the final 30 km of the 177 km stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne but in the finale Cavendish surfed the wheels of his rivals before powering clear. 

The 39-year-old Briton left behind his lead-out man Michael Morkov,  moved behind Jasper Philipsen, then Fabio Jakobsen, before spying space on the left-hand side of the road.

He burst clear and held off the much younger Philipsen, who came second, and Alexander Kristoff, who took the other podium place.

With the day’s only breakaway, by Frenchmen Clement Russo and Matteo Vercher, reeled in with 35 km to go the peloton finished together.

That meant the general classification was unchanged with Tadej Pogacar, having narrowly avoided a traffic island 60 km out, still in the lead.

Remco Evenepoel remains second, 45 seconds behind, and Jonas Vingegaard five seconds further adrift in third.

The leading Australians are Jai Hindley in 18th, four minutes 40 seconds behind, and Jack Haig, 25th at 5:41.

Cavendish’s victory comes just four days after the Manxman – as people from the Isle of Man, off England’s west coast, are known – struggled mightily in the heat of a punishing opening stage.

He was vomiting on the bike and had to be nursed by his team to finish inside the cut-off time.

Cavendish’s four stage wins in 2021 counted as one of sport’s great comeback stories, his first victories at the Tour in five years after a period of time marked by illness and injury which contributed to a diagnosis of depression. 

Omitted from the 2022 Tour he signed a last-minute deal with Astana-Qazaqstan ahead of the 2023 season but crashed on stage eight, breaking his collarbone.

Cavendish’s wife Peta and their children were waiting at the team bus and joined in exuberant celebrations.

“Honestly, I’m tired. It’s my 15th Tour de France and it takes a lot to get there every year,” Cavendish said.  

“I’m getting old and I’ve got to get in shape every year and it’s hard. But everyone has been involved, I’ve got a lot of support. My family came yesterday. Perfect timing.”

With PA