Eddy Merckx congratulates Mark Cavendish for historic 35th Tour de France stage win

After Mark Cavendish of Astana Qazaqstan achieved a record 35th stage win at the Tour de France in Saint Vulbas, the reaction from cycling legend Eddy Merckx was perhaps the most significant. Until this historic stage, Merckx had shared the record with Cavendish, both holding 34 stage wins.

Cavendish matched Merckx’s record in 2021, and at the time, the front cover of L’Equipe read “Le Cannibale du Sprint”. This morning, the French paper opted for a simpler title: “Mark Cavendish The Cannibal”. Despite borrowing Merckx’s famous nickname, the 79-year-old Belgian showed nothing but respect on social media. “Congratulations to Mark Cavendish on this historic achievement! Such a nice guy to break my record,” Merckx said in an Instagram story.

When asked to share a message with Merckx, Cavendish was quick to clarify, “It was our record, not his record,” while also humbly pointing out that 35 is just a number. “I love Eddy, he’s always been super nice to me. It’s not taking anything from the great Eddy Merckx; it’s just a number. Eddy Merckx is Eddy Merckx,” Cavendish commented to VTM Nieuws.

Merckx, known for his competitive spirit even in retirement, had previously mentioned to *La Gazzetta dello Sport* that he “won’t lose any sleep over it” and stayed true to his word by congratulating Cavendish. This shared competitive nature has driven both men to remarkable success in their careers.

Cavendish’s journey to this milestone has not been without its challenges. His determination is evident, having battled serious illness, depression, and a crash resulting in a collarbone fracture during the 2023 Tour. Despite these setbacks, Cavendish remains focused on future victories.

Today’s stage to Dijon presents the first opportunity for Cavendish to push his record even further. The Manx Missile, already dreaming of “36, 37, even 40 stages” before the race started, is undoubtedly setting his sights on more wins. For Cavendish, it has always been about winning itself, not just standing alone at the top of the leaderboard.