Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory on Wednesday, breaking Eddy Merckx’s long-standing record for the most career Tour de France stage wins. Cavendish secured his 35th win in a dramatic finish during the fifth stage, which spanned 177 kilometres from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Saint-Vulbas. The Manxman outpaced Belgian Jasper Philipsen and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff in the closing metres.

The 39-year-old Cavendish, who had equalled Merckx’s 34-win record during the 2021 Tour, finally surpassed the legendary Belgian cyclist, marking a historic moment in his career. Cavendish’s victory came 16 years after his first Tour stage win in 2008.

Reflecting on his achievement, Cavendish said, “I just wanted to get the run-in to do it. I’m a little bit in disbelief. Astana put a big gamble on this year to make sure we’re good at the Tour de France. We’ve done it.”

Cavendish’s decision to delay his retirement paid off as he made a spectacular comeback after crashing out of last year’s Tour with a broken collarbone. His victory on Wednesday was a testament to his persistence and determination. “Winning one stage can make a career and I’ve always felt the need to win one more, and another one after that,” Cavendish remarked.

Mark Cavendish wins his 35th Tour de France stage 
(Photo Credit: Stephane Mahe)
Mark Cavendish wins his 35th Tour de France stage
(Photo Credit: Stephane Mahe)

The race leader’s yellow jersey remains with two-time champion Tadej Pogacar, who narrowly avoided a crash with 57 kilometres to go. The Slovenian managed to stay clear of trouble as several riders behind him went down.

Astana Qazaqstan’s strategy was evident in the final 10 kilometres as they positioned Cavendish for the sprint. Despite a hectic and chaotic finale, Cavendish maintained his composure, using his experience and quick decision-making to navigate through the pack. With 300 metres to go, he found a clear path, surged forward, and secured the victory.

Several riders, including Fabio Jakobsen, expressed their admiration for Cavendish’s achievement. Jakobsen, who finished fifth, noted, “We worked really well as a team today… Cavendish went on the left and had a bit of a head start but he held the speed really well. It’s nice to see him get the record.”

As Cavendish celebrated with his team and family, the cycling world recognised the significance of his milestone. Cavendish’s relentless pursuit of victory has now cemented his place as the most successful stage winner in Tour de France history.

Mark Cavendish
(Photo Credit: ASO – Charly Lopez)

2024 Tour de France Stage 5 result

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Main photo credit: ASO – Charly Lopez