"I'm just a kid from Slovenia, watching television all day and then riding afterwards," said Tadej Pogacar, after winning the 2020 Tour de France.

Then just 21, he required a 57-second swing to overtake his compatriot Primoz Roglic on the final time trial.

He went on to win the grandest of the Grand Tours by 59 seconds, writing his name forever into cycling history as he won Le Tour on his debut.

There was less drama in 2021, as Pogacar easily retained the three jerseys he won in 2020 (the yellow for the general classification, polka dot for the mountains and white for the best young rider).

While Olympic glory went to Roglic, Pogacar is out to match the great Eddy Merckx in the record books as he returns to Grand Tour action after skipping the Giro d'Italia.

The race starts in Copenhagen on Friday, with the opening three stages winding their way through Denmark – the 10th nation other than France to host the Grand Depart.

Can anyone hope to stop Pogacar in the 109th edition of Le Tour, or is there just no matching the kid from Slovenia?

 

Pogacar has Merckx in his sights

Only Merckx has managed to win the Tour de France on each of his first three appearances in the race (the Belgian went on to win his first five in a row, remarkably), but a place in history is there for the taking for Pogacar.

He is already the youngest rider to win multiple yellow jerseys, at the age of 22 years and 301 days at the culmination of the 2021 Tour, while he has led the young rider classification for the last 30 stages in total, since stage 13 in 2020, which is the longest run since the white jersey was first awarded in 1975.

Pogacar is also aiming to become the first rider to win the king of the mountains jersey in three successive editions of the Tour de France since popular French rider Richard Virenque between 1994 and 1997.

"The Tour de France is the jewel in the crown. It's the one that the road cyclists do all want to win," Chris Hoy, one of the United Kingdom's greatest Olympians, told Stats Perform.

"As such, it's quite hard to predict. But Pogacar is one of these young phenomenal athletes who have shown such maturity, despite their years."

 

Roglic out for revenge

Roglic won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier in June, and looks well placed to push for what would be his fourth Grand Tour success, albeit his first outside of Spain.

The chance was cruelly snatched away in 2020, while Roglic was forced to abandon ahead of stage nine last year following a crash six stages prior.

Roglic is aiming to become the oldest rider to win the Tour de France since Cadel Evans in 2011 (34 years and 162 days).

He will be 32 years old and 268 days on the last day of this year's race, but is the prime contender from a strong Jumbo-Visma team.

Their line-up includes six-time Tour de France stage winner Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard, who finished second overall in 2021, and Sepp Kuss, an exceptional climber who last year became the first American to win a stage at the Tour de France since Tyler Farrar in 2011, while Steven Kruijswijk is one of three riders in the squad to have finished on the GC podium before.

Van Aert is the pick of the supporting cast, with his six stage wins between 2019 and 2021 the joint-highest in that period alongside Pogacar.

Indeed, the Belgian won the final two stages last year and could become the first rider to win three successive individual stages (not including time trials) at Le Tour since Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi in 2003.

No Bernal, but INEOS looking strong

Egan Bernal has not yet fully recovered from a serious crash he suffered earlier this year, meaning INEOS Grenadiers are without one of the best in the business.

Yet their team is still one to be reckoned with. Captain Geraint Thomas is one of just three riders in the provisional start list to have won Le Tour (along with Pogacar and Chris Froome), with the Welshman heading to France on the back of his sole victory of 2022 so far, in the Tour de Suisse.

Only Merckx (in 1974) and Bernal (2019) have won both the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France in the same season, and while a Thomas push for GC glory looks unlikely, INEOS have real depth.

Tom Pidcock is one of the brightest prospects in cycling, having triumphed in the Tokyo Olympic Games mountain biking and the World Championships (cyclo-cross).

He is riding alongside Adam Yates, the winner of the white jersey in 2016, and time trial world champion Filippo Ganna.

Stage 20 between Lacapelle-Marival and Rocamadour (40.7km) will be the longest individual time trial in the Tour de France since 2014, and Ganna, a six-time stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, will be looking to come to the fore there.

Cavendish denied a shot at history

Despite Pogacar's dominance, Mark Cavendish provided the most remarkable story at the 2021 Tour de France. His comeback was one for the ages.

Cavendish had not featured at the Tour de France in 2016, but last year he won four stages to match the overall record of Merckx (34 stage victories) that had stood since 1975.

 

The Manxman was unable to surpass it on the Champs-Elysees, however, and his chance of becoming the outright record holder may well have gone, after Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl went with Fabio Jakobsen (who has 10 sprint wins this season) as their sprinter.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team riders have led the points classification in the Tour de France in each of the last 33 stages of the race, with three of their riders winning the green jersey in that time. Julian Alaphilippe is one of them, but like Cavendish he has missed out.

France out of luck?

Alaphilippe has won six of the last nine stages won by a French rider in the Tour de France, and would have been aiming to become the first home rider to win a stage at five consecutive editions since Bernard Hinault (1978-1982).

As it is, Alaphilippe will have to watch on, and with that France's slim hopes of a home success seem to have dwindled further still.

Romain Bardet has achieved five top-10 finishes in the GC standings. That is the most for a French rider since Virenque (six between 1994 and 2000), yet Bardet has finished only two of his last four Grand Tours and it would be a shock if the Team DSM man challenged.

Pierre Rolland will participate in his 13th Tour de France, the joint-highest tally among all riders on the provisional start list, alongside Imanol Erviti, while Thibaut Pinot will make his first Grand Tour start since the 2020 Vuelta a Espana, when he abandoned after two stages. This will be his ninth appearance in La Grande Boucle, but he has finished only four times.

The last time a Frenchman did not win a stage was in 1999 – since then, 59 stages have been won by French riders – but you might not bet against that run ending this year.

Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl duo Mark Cavendish and Julian Alaphilippe have missed out on selection for the Tour de France.

Cavendish equalled the all-time record for stage wins at the Tour last year, matching Eddy Merckx's tally of 34 victories - which had stood since 1975.

The Manxman looked to have boosted his hopes of making the eight-man team by triumphing at the British National Road Championship on Sunday, having featured at the Giro d'Italia for the first time in nine years.

But Fabio Jakobsen has a superior record in sprints this season, with 10 wins compared to Cavendish's five, and the Dutchman has got the nod for Le Tour, which starts in Copenhagen on Friday.

Kasper Asgreen, Andrea Bagioli, Mattia Cattaneo, Tim Declercq, Mikkel Honore, Yves Lampaert and Michael Morkov are the other seven riders to be picked.

Cavendish and Florian Senechal were named as first-reserve riders on Monday, while Alaphilippe was not included.

"Over 3,300 kilometres and more than 55,000 meters of elevation promise to make for a tough race," Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sports director Tom Steels said. 

"After the first ITT, we have two other days in Denmark, which should be for the sprinters, that is if we won't have any echelons.

"The cobblestones stage will be a very tricky stage, as everyone will want to be at the front, and after this we'll have a lot of climbing, with many iconic ascents of the Tour de France.

"The climbers will get plenty of opportunities at this edition, unlike the sprinters, who'll have to fight in many of the stages against the time limit.

"Overall, the race has something for everyone, and that's why we are going there with a balanced team."

Alaphilippe was widely expected to be picked after racing in the French National Championships two months after his Liege–Bastogne–Liege crash, but there is no place for the popular 30-year-old.

"Concerning our reserves, we must stress out that they showed a lot of professionalism, continued to train and remained focused in these past couple of weeks, and even brought two victories at the Nationals," Steels added.

"The decision to leave Julian home was a very difficult one, as he is one of the team's most emblematic riders and we wrote so many great moments together at the Tour.

"Julian worked hard to get back into shape after what happened to him in Liege, but it is felt that for a rider like him it's always important to be on top of his game and be able to compete with the best riders of the peloton in a race like Le Tour.

"That's why we decided to give him more time to recover and build back his condition, so that he can be at 100 per cent for the second part of the season."

Mark Cavendish powered across the line to claim his 16th Giro d'Italia stage victory on the final day in Hungary on Sunday. 

Contesting the Giro for the first time since winning the points classification in 2013, Cavendish was always in control after a brilliant lead out from Michael Morkov and sprinted to victory at the end of a 201-kilometre flat ride from Kaposvar to Balatonfured. 

The Briton now has 11 more Giro stage wins than anyone else in the field this year – Fernando Gaviria, Arnaud Demare and Caleb Ewan all have five. 

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team made their move at the right moment and were rewarded with their first victory in the Grand Tour since Maximilian Schachmann won stage 18 in 2018. 

"I'm very happy. It was really nice. I've got an incredible final group here and they delivered today," Cavendish said after tasting victory on stage three. 

"In the end I had to go long, with 300 [metres] to go. I'm happy I could hang on that long for the win." 

Cavendish held off the challenges of Demare and Gaviria, who finished second and third respectively. 

Mathieu van der Poel retained the maglia rosa and an 11-second advantage over Simon Yates after leading out team-mate Jakub Mareczko, who was fifth behind Biniam Girmay. 

COMEBACK CAVENDISH 

Cavendish's haul of Grand Tour stage wins now sits at 53 – he also has 34 at the Tour de France and three at the Vuelta a Espana. Mario Cipollini (57) and the legendary Eddy Merckx (64) are the only riders to have managed more. 

Four of Cavendish's total at the Tour came last year, ending a five-year wait for a victory at one of cycling's three main events.  

Asked about the Manxman's resurgence, Van der Poel said: "We knew he was one of the favourites for today. After the Tour de France last year, we all know he can win stages again." 

STAGE RESULT  

1. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 4:56:39  
2. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) same time  
3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) same time  
4. Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) same time  
5. Jakub Mareczko (Alpecin-Fenix) same time  

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS  

General Classification  

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 09:43:50  
2. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) +0:11 
3. Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) +0:16 

Points Classification   

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 62  
2. Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 55  
3. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 53  

King of the Mountains  

1. Rick Zabel (Israel-Premier Tech) 5  
2. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) 5  
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 3 

The first Grand Tour of 2022 starts on Friday, with the Giro d'Italia getting underway in Hungary.

Any chances of Egan Bernal being in line to defend his title were dashed in January, when the Colombian suffered serious injuries in a training ride in his homeland.

Fortunately, Bernal has recovered and is training again in Europe with his INEOS Grenadiers team-mates, but he will not be vying for a second successive maglia rosa.

Likewise, Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is skipping the Giro to focus his efforts on a third straight yellow jersey. His fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic, too, will not be present for the 3,445.6km race that begins in Budapest and takes in a trip around Sicily before snaking its way around the Italian mainland, finishing with a time trial in Verona.

But the lack of standout favourites could well result in a more open race. Though not a general classification contender, Mark Cavendish is making his long-awaited Giro return, while Vincenzo Nibali will visit his hometown on what seems set to be his final appearance at this particular Grand Tour.

 

Stats Perform looks at the key storylines heading into the Giro d'Italia.

Picks of the bunch

This year's route features only 26.3km of time trialling – the lowest amount in a Giro since 1963, when there were no time trials. Instead, there is close to 51km of climbing, with much of that reserved for the gruelling final stages.

It is no surprise, then, that reigning world time trial champion Filippo Ganna, who has won six stages across the last two Giro and claimed gold in the team pursuit for Italy at the Tokyo Olympics, is not involved for INEOS this time around.

 

Leading the Grenadiers will be Richard Carapraz, the 2019 victor who will have support from Pavel Sivakov, a particularly strong climber.

For Alpecin-Felix, Mathieu van der Poel will hope to build on his impressive GT debut from last year's Tour de France and collect some points in the early stages, while Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) will want another shot at Giro glory.

Yates had top drop out in 2020 after testing positive for coronavirus but won two stages to finish third in 2021. Indeed, that makes him the best performer from last year's GC to feature this time around, with Damiano Caruso, who took second, also sitting out.

Tom Dumoulin won in 2017 and is back after a hiatus, while 42-year-old Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde is set for his final Giro appearance, with the Spaniard set to retire at the end of the season.

Mikel Landa took the maglia azzurra in 2017 and he leads a Bahrain-Victorious team that includes Wout Poels, who held the king of the mountains jersey for four stages of Le Tour last year.

Cav is back

After his sensational efforts in last year's Tour de France, when he matched Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage wins, Cavendish will return to the Giro after a nine-year absence after he was confirmed to be heading up the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.

Cavendish last featured in the race in 2013, topping the points classification after winning five stages.

His participation here does cast doubt over whether he will compete in Le Tour and get the chance to set the stage-win record in that race, especially as he turns 37 later this month (he'll celebrate his birthday with a 153km mountain stage from Santena to Torino on May 21).

However, regardless of whether he gets another shot at Tour de France history in July, Cavendish will be out to add to his 15 Giro stage wins. 

 

Nibali's long goodbye

The Giro passes through Messina on May 11, marking a return to his hometown for Nibali, the two-time champion who looks set to be making his final appearance in the race.

Nibali has won four Grand Tours and while the 37-year-old is unlikely to make any GC inroads (his last success was in 2016), it will be a glorious opportunity for him to bid farewell.

He was in tears after winning last year's Giro di Sicilia – how fitting would it be if he were to win an eighth Giro stage of his career back in the town where he grew up.

Nibali was the last Italian rider to win the Giro, and Italy's hopes rest on Trek-Segafredo's Giulio Ciccone, who crashed out in 2021.

Mark Cavendish will return to the Giro d'Italia after a nine-year absence after he was confirmed to be heading up the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team at 2022's first Grand Tour event.

Cavendish last featured in the race in 2013, topping the points classification after winning five stages.

The legendary sprinter has 15 stage wins in five previous appearances in the race, and will be hoping to replicate his successful comeback at last year's Tour de France, where he matched Eddy Merckx's career record of 34 stage victories, which had stood since 1975, after a three-year absence from the race.

As his team confirmed Cavendish's participation on Twitter, directeur sportif Davide Bramati said he is excited about the 36-year-old's chances of further success.

"We go to the Giro d’Italia with a lot of motivation. We have a good team at the start, with Mark as our man for the flat," Bramati said in a team statement.

"He has won a lot of stages at the Giro, and he can rely on many strong riders to support and guide him in the hectic bunch sprints.

"For the other stages, we'll just take it one day at a time, fight for every opportunity and see what we can do. We know that it won't be an easy three weeks, it never is, but we will try to do our best, because it's in our nature."

 

Cavendish's selection for the three-week race, which begins in Budapest on May 6 and finishes in Verona on May 29, does, however, make another appearance in the Tour de France appear to be unlikely this year, with Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen expected to get the nod.

The 36-year-old has been in good form in 2022, becoming the first British rider to win the Milano-Torino one-day race and picking up three race victories since the turn of the year.

Chris Hoy has labelled Mark Cavendish's spectacular Tour de France comeback as "one of the greatest" in sporting history.

Cavendish, a silver medallist on the track for Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games, made a stunning return to Le Tour in 2021.

Having not featured in the race since 2018, Cavendish came in as a late replacement for Deceuninck-QuickStep and landed four stage wins, seeing him match the great Eddy Merckx's career record of 34 stage victories that had stood since 1975.

Indeed, Cavendish went into the final stage with the opportunity to surpass Merckx, though he could only finish third in a sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees. He nevertheless took the green jersey for the second time in his career.

It was an unlikely road back for 36-year-old Cavendish, who just last week became the oldest winner of the Milano-Torino.

"Oh, I think Mark Cavendish's comeback last year was one of the greatest in sport we've ever seen," Hoy, one of Great Britain's greatest Olympians, told Stats Perform.

"It was, I don't think even he had really thought that he was gonna have such an impact, and to be called in so late in the year. He had a really solid year, started winning again, he got his confidence back.

"But I don't think that he even envisaged that he would be competing in the Tour de France, let alone winning multiple stages and equalling the greatest of all time in many people's eyes.

 

"He's having a fantastic year this year as well, but regardless of what he does from now on he is a legend of the sport and that will not change. An extra Tour de France stage win is what he wants, but it wouldn't make him any more of a legend in my eyes.

"I'm sure for most of the cycling community his place is already cemented forever. He is a proper legend of the sport."

For Hoy, Cavendish's legacy is secured around the globe.

"I think Mark has real global appeal," Hoy said. "He's well known in the UK and has a huge following over here, but equally wherever he goes, wherever he competes, because of the way he raced, because he's so exciting, because there's always drama surrounding him.

"He either wins or there's always some controversy or something. It is great for the sport. I think the best thing about his comeback is seeing how much it means to him and the emotion, because sport is nothing without emotion.

"If somebody wins just routinely, and it becomes almost easy looking, even if it's not, but if it appears to be easy and there's no emotion, then it's hard for the public to get behind that. But for Cav, he's always had that emotion, people love to see how much it means to him.

"We've never seen Cav quite as emotional as when he won his first stage of the Tour last year, it was incredible."

British cyclist Mark Cavendish has been left "extremely distressed" after being held at knifepoint during an armed burglary at his family home last month.

The 36-year-old was recovering from two broken ribs and a collapsed lung sustained in a serious crash when the incident took place in the early hours of November 27.

Cavendish said he was "violently attacked" by four men in front of his wife, Peta, and children, during the raid.

The group stole a Louis Vuitton suitcase and two high-value watches. No arrests have yet been made.

Cavendish, who signed a one-year contract extension with Deceuninck-Quick-Step this week, said in a statement on Wednesday: "As I'm sure you will understand, this incident has left our family extremely distressed – not just myself and Peta but our children as well, who feared for their lives and are now struggling with the after-effects.

"No one should have to experience the sort of violence and threats made against us, let alone this happening in a family home – a place where everyone should feel safe.

"The items taken are simply material goods and our priority at the moment is to make sure we all recover from the incident as a family, and we know this is likely to take some time."

Detective Inspector Tony Atkin, the senior investigating officer on the case, added: "This was undoubtedly a targeted incident at the home of a celebrated British Olympian, who at the time was recovering from significant injuries resulting from a crash while competing, which was well publicised.

"Our investigation is moving along at pace and we are following a number of lines of inquiry as we seek to catch those responsible. 

"Mr Cavendish and his wife were assaulted and threatened in their own home, in the presence of their young children, who witnessed these events. Thankfully, they are recovering, but the traumatic effect will be long standing."

Mark Cavendish delivered such an incredible comeback at the Tour de France that he sits alongside cycling royalty in the history books.

Cavendish had last featured at the Tour de France in 2016, and was not expecting to ride in the event this year. Indeed, he had even hinted retirement may be a possibility following a loss of form and several bouts of injury.

Yet, after a late substitution in for Deceuninck-QuickStep and four stage wins later, Cavendish had served up a welcome reminder of his excellence.

"I found out just a week before the Tour de France started and that was that," Cavendish said. "We didn't know what was happening with Sam Bennett's knee so I was just training as if I was going but with a 99 per cent probability that I wasn't going."

Belgian great Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage victories had stood since 1975, but the flurry of wins for Cavendish over the past three weeks means he has matched that total.

There was to be no last hurrah on the final stage for Cavendish, as he gritted his teeth but could only cross the line third in Sunday's sprint on the Champs Elysees. Consolation came with green jersey glory for the second time in his career, the king of the sprinters in the 2021 Tour.

Perhaps next year he will be back with a 35th win in his sights. Here, Stats Perform looks back at Cavendish's stage triumphs so far.

2008

In his first professional season, Cavendish started as he meant to go on at Le Tour, winning four stages. His first came in stage five at the culmination of a 232km route. He followed that up with successes in stages eight, 12 and 13 before he abandoned the tour ahead of competing at the Beijing OIympics.

2009

After becoming the first British rider to wear the general classification leader's pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia, Cavendish's dominance of the sprints in grand tours really clicked into gear. He won a sensational six stages of Le Tour in 2009, including his first of four on the bounce on the Champs-Elysees. In the process, he also set a new record for Tour de France stage wins by a British rider.

2010

Five stage victories followed in 2010, even though Cavendish crashed out of the final sprint on the opening day. The Manx rider won stages five, six, 11, 18 and 20 to take his total to 15 over three appearances at Le Tour, though his efforts were not enough to claim the green jersey.

2011

Cavendish did clinch the green jersey the following year, despite being docked 20 points for finishing outside the time limit after stage nine and again after 18. Triumphant efforts in stages five, seven, 11, 15 and 21 took his career total to 20.

2012 

Wearing the world champion's rainbow jersey, Cavendish crossed the line first on the Champs-Elysees for the fourth year running, earning his third stage win of the 2012 Tour. He became the most successful sprinter in Tour history with 23 wins, as well as being the first rider to win the Paris stage while wearing the rainbow jersey.

 

2013

Cavendish won stage five in Marseille, though he had to withstand being drenched with urine by a spectator on stage 11 – cycling is not a sport for the faint-hearted, after all. The 28-year-old also went on to win stage 13, though a fifth straight triumph in Paris eluded him.

2015

The 2014 Tour ended quickly for Cavendish as, in the sprint finish in Harrogate – Yorkshire having hosted the Grand Depart – he crashed out and suffered a shoulder injury. He bounced back in 2015 to win his 26th stage, nipping in ahead of Andre Greipel in Fougeres.

2016

After three quiet years at Le Tour by his standard, Cavendish was back at his blistering best in 2016, and completed his set of overall classification lead jerseys in Grand Tours when he clinched the opening stage in Normandy. A victory in stage three saw him equal Bernard Hinault's tally, with further celebrations following in stage six and 14, before he went on to claim his first Olympic medal with silver in the Rio omnium.

2021

Back from five years in the wilderness, when Merckx's record must have seemed cruelly so close yet so far away, Cavendish reminded everyone of his talent with a win in stage four, and two days later, he had scooped his 50th stage success at a Grand Tour. The win in Valence on stage 10 ensured that no, this was no joke and, after he matched Merckx in Carcassonne, Cavendish had 34 victories. He was terribly close in Paris to what would have been a glorious 35th, but for now he must settle for sharing illustrious company.

Tadej Pogacar clinched a second successive Tour de France general classification title as Mark Cavendish narrowly missed out on a record-breaking 35th stage win.

It was a racing certainty that Pogacar would be crowned on the Champs Elysees on Sunday after dominating the 21-stage tour, having secured top spot on Saturday ahead of the largely processional finale in Paris.

Cavendish made sure of the green jersey as the tour's top sprinter, but hopes of a 35th stage win were dashed when Wout van Aert snatched glory in the French capital.

Cavendish had powered from 30 stage wins at the start of the 2021 Tour to 34 during the course of the past three weeks, matching Eddie Merckx's long-standing record, but the Manxman could not nose ahead of Van Aert in a frantic finish.

Van Aert's success means his Belgian compatriot Merckx continues to hold a share of that stage-win record, and it raises the question of whether Cavendish will return in 2022 in an effort to take sole ownership.

The sprint was suitably phenomenal, with Jumbo-Visma's Van Aert keeping enough in reserve to get ahead of countryman Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), who took second, and third-placed Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep).

It means Van Aert became the first Tour rider since 1979 to win a sprint, a mountain stage and an individual time trial in the same edition of the race.

The time-trial success came on Saturday, and it was remarkable he had so much left in the tank 24 hours later.

Van Aert said on Eurosport: "This tour has just been amazing. It's been such a roller coaster, but to finish with a weekend like this is beyond expectations."

His next target will be an Olympic gold, with Van Aert revealing he was due to travel from Paris to Tokyo later on Sunday.

He realised after sealing victory that he would be a man in demand over the coming hours.

"I guess I put myself in trouble because I have to take a flight tonight," Van Aert added. "We'll see if I can get there.

"It's definitely not a pity. I went for it today because a victory like this is priceless."

Mark Cavendish could not secure a 35th Tour de France stage win to break Eddy Merckx's record as Matej Mohoric prevailed on stage 19 to claim his second victory of this year's race.

Cavendish, 36, was tipped to break the all-time record for stage wins, set by Merckx in 1975, but he will now have to wait for the opportunity on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

Under 48 hours after Bahrain Victorious had their team hotel and bus raided, Mohoric's triumph – his second and the team's third win at this year's Tour – resembled a procession as he cruised home with a near one-minute advantage.

A sprint finish in Libourne to conclude the 207km route seemed perfect for Cavendish to create history, yet his team, Deceuninck-QuickStep, did not manage the breakaway effectively this time.

Mohoric was part of the initial group to break clear inside the final 100km before that section of riders halved in size with 30km to go.

Five kilometres later, the Slovenian seized the initiative as he produced another long-range attack to secure the lead, remaining untroubled as he eased to the finish.

With Cavendish back in the peloton, it was Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) who claimed second and third respectively in the sprint.

Yellow jersey holder Tadej Pogacar had an easy time of it, as his procession into Paris gets well and truly underway.

Barring any problems in Saturday's time trial, Pogacar is a certainty for the general classification, king of the mountains and young rider triumphs.

STAGE RESULT

1. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) 4:19:17
2. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) +0:58
3. Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) +0:58
4. Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) +:1:02
5. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:08

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 79:40:09
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:45
3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +5:51

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 304
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 269
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 216

King of the Mountains

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 107
2. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 88
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) 82

What's next?

A shorter and flatter route than last year’s ride to La Planche des Belles Filles, the 31km time trial towards Saint Emilion will suit the specialists in this discipline and is unlikely to be as dramatic as the last Tour’s equivalent test, which saw Pogacar snatch victory from Primoz Roglic.

Mark Cavendish's incredible return to the Tour de France continued as he matched Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage triumphs.

Cavendish, who won his first stage at the most famous of the grand tours back in 2008, has been one of the great success stories of this year's edition.

And, with two flat runs of the race to spare, the Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider scooped his fourth stage win of 2021 to equal Merckx's haul.

The Belgian great – a five-time Tour de France winner – set the record between 1969 and 1975.

Cavendish's record-equalling success came in Carcassonne at the culmination of stage 13's 220km route, with his team-mates executing a perfect lead-out in the final 1,500m.

Having established himself at the front of the peloton, Cavendish had to change his bike with around 35km to go, yet rallied back to be in place for the final push.

It came courtesy of Michael Morkov, who timed his burst to perfection, giving Cavendish the opportunity to sprint through the gap and clinch his record-equalling win in a photo finish, also becoming the first rider to win four stages of Le Tour at the age of 36 in the process.

Cavendish could yet surpass the record, with two more sprints to come in the final week. He has previously won a record four times on the Champs-Elysees finale in Paris.

In the general classification standings, Tadej Pogacar's controlled ride kept him in command of the yellow jersey.

There was drama further back in the stage as a crash with around 55km remaining resulted in three abandonments, including former Vuelta e Espana winner Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange.

IT'S LIKE MY FIRST ONE

Cavendish's career at the top level seemed to be over. Indeed, he even hinted at retirement following a run of poor form and illness in 2020.

Yet the 2016 Olympic silver medalist has reaffirmed his place as one of the greats with this extraordinary comeback. 

"It's tiring. I can't even think about it, I'm so dead, 220km in that heat, that wind. I went deep there, so deep, the boys were incredible. I don't believe it," an exhausted Cavendish said.

"A lot of the day I didn't feel like it was going to happen. The guys were riding like they were – I was so on the limit, you saw at the end – slightly uphill. I was lucky the lads just played it calm, I lost a little bit with about five km to go, it got a bit slippy I thought I'd punctured, but everyone else was like "it's the road", but we had to take it easy, I just lost a bit.

Asked if he had realised what his win meant, Cavendish added: "It's just another win on the Tour de France, it's like my first one – I've won a stage at the Tour de France, that's what I dreamed of as a kid, it's what I dream of now and I work so hard for it.

"I just hope, we've seen such a growth in cycling since I've started racing here, if any one of my wins can inspire kids to ride the Tour de France when they grow up, that's what means the most to me."

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 05:04:29
2. Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Ivan Garcia Conrtina (Movstar) 
5. Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) 

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 52:27:12'
2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 279
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 178
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 171

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 43
3. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42

What's next?

The Tour heads into the Pyrenees over the weekend, with Saturday's 183.7km route taking the riders over five categorised climbs.

Mark Cavendish pocketed a 33rd Tour de France stage win in expert fashion in Valance, closing to within one of Eddie Merckx's all-time record.

The resurgent sprint great claimed his third win of this year's race and was quick to pay tribute to the lead-out work of his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team, who left him in prime position to see off Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen with 150 metres to go.

Cavendish has extended his advantage over Michael Matthews in the points classification to 59 and, provided the 36-year-old emerges from the Alps unscathed, he will have the tantalising prospect of pulling level with Merckx in Paris when the Tour concludes on July 18.

"It was an old-school, run-of-the-mill, like you read in the cycling magazines, textbook lead-out," Cavendish said. "Just getting the lads on the front, pull as fast as they can so no one can come past you.

"We knew this finish, I didn't make it the last time we came here in 2015, I got dropped, but we studied it and we knew if we took that last corner wide, we could keep the speed up.

"I'm just humbled. I've got the winner of the Tour of Flanders [Kasper Asgreen], the world champion who’s been in the yellow jersey here [Julian Alaphilippe], Michael Morkov, who's going to the Olympics to try to win the Madison, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner [Davide Ballerini] leaving everything on the road for me.

"I just had to finish it off. I’m grateful to all of them. I didn't have to do anything – just the last 150 metres. I'm thankful to everyone."

A stage that was always one for the sprinters to target meant, as expected, there was no change in the general classification picture, with Tadej Pogacar retaining his two minutes and one second lead over Ben O'Connor.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 4:14:07
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) 
5. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 38:25:17
2. Ben O'Connor (AG2R La Mondiale) +2:01
3. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +5:18

Points Classification

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 218
2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 159
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) 136

King of the Mountains

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) 50
2. Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) 42
3. Wouter Poels (Bahrain Victorious) 39

What's next?

Pogacar has the chance to definitively stamp his authority all over this year's race during Wednesday's 198.9 kilometre stage from Sorgues to Malaucene, which features a double ascent of the infamously daunting Mont Ventoux.

Mark Cavendish outsprinted Jasper Philipsen and Nacer Bouhanni to claim his second stage win of this year's Tour de France.

The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider followed up his stage four triumph with victory in Thursday's stage six from Tours to Chateauroux.

Cavendish's first stage win was in Chateauroux 13 years ago and he is now within two victories of the all-time record of 34, held by Eddy Merckx.

"It was nice. Wow," Cavendish said in his post-race interview. "It's 10 years since I last won here. It's pretty special and actually in pretty similar fashion today."

Asked if Merckx's record is in his sights, Cavendish said: "I am not thinking about anything.

"If it was my first or my 32nd, I have just won a stage of the Tour de France. That is what people ride their whole lives for."

Thursday's 160.6-kilometre ride was always likely to suit the sprinters and so that proved from the off with a high pace being set.

Greg van Avermaet and Roger Kluge led the breakaway but were caught by the peloton.

Cavendish positioned himself behind Philipsen and Tim Merlier and overhauled the pair in the last 100 metres.

Bouhanni attempted to snatch the win on the line but his late push came too late to stop Cavendish, who extends his lead over Philipsen to 46 points in the green jersey standings.

Philipsen's Alpecin-Fenix team-mate Mathieu van der Poel retained the yellow jersey, meanwhile, with no changes to the general classification after Thursday's leg.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar is eight seconds back ahead of stage seven, which will take the riders from Vierzon to Le Creusot and contains a number of lumpy climbs.

It was also confirmed that Tour de France organisers have withdrawn their complaint against a spectator who caused a big crash on the opening stage.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 3:17:36
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) same time
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) same time
4. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) same time
5. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 20:09:17
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +00:08
3. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) +00:30

Points Classification
1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 148
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 102
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) 99

King of the Mountains
1. Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4
3. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) 3

Mark Cavendish claimed an emotional victory to cap a fourth stage in the Tour de France that had begun with a rider protest.

Sprint legend Cavendish claimed his 31st stage win – albeit this was his first since 2016 – as he came through in a battle for the line to round out a 150.4-kilometre journey from Redon to Fougeres.

Clearly overwhelmed at his achievement, the British rider struggled for words during his post-race interview, admitting he feared there would be no further opportunities to add to his impressive career tally at Le Tour.

His place on the Deceuninck–Quick-Step squad only came about after an injury to Sam Bennett, the unexpected chance allowing the 36-year-old to end a drought spanning four years and 348 days thanks to a trademark strong finish.

"I don't know what to say. Just being here is special enough, I didn't think I'd ever get to come back to this race," Cavendish – who now sits three wins short of Eddy Merckx's all-time stage record – told the media.

"So many people didn't believe in me, but these guys do. 

"I thought I was never coming back to this race, honestly. When you come to Deceuninck–Quick-Step, they've got the best riders in the world. The stars aligned somehow."

The drama at the end of proceedings came after the peloton had staged a protest as soon as Tuesday's proceedings started, a collective move made to raise concerns following a crash-filled Stage 3.

CPA Cycling - the association of active pro riders - issued a short statement on Twitter to explain the decision, with competitors hoping for a change to safety measures, including a change to the ruling over late accidents.

"At KM 0 of today's stage of the Tour de France, riders paused in solidarity as part of their calls for UCI to set up discussions to adapt the 3 km rule during stage races," CPA Cycling tweeted.

Primoz Roglic, who had suffered injuries after a heavy fall on Monday, was able to continue with the aid of plenty of strapping. Caleb Ewan was not so fortunate, however, as he was ruled out with a broken collarbone sustained after going down in the sprint, having tangled with Peter Sagan.

With the flat stage ideal for sprinters, Mathieu van der Poel was able to retain the yellow jersey. He remains eight seconds clear of Julian Alaphilippe.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 3:20:17
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic)
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
4. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange)
5. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 16:19:10
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:08
3. Richard Carparaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:31

Points Classification
1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 89
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 82
3. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) 78

King of the Mountains
1. Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4
3. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) 3

Tadej Pogacar emulated Eddy Merckx with his historic Tour de France victory last year and could face an epic battle with compatriot Primoz Roglic this time around.

Tour debutant Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the race last September, on the eve of his 22nd birthday.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider is the favourite as he attempts to go back-to-back in a race that starts in Brest on Saturday, but Roglic is a man on a mission after missing out on the 2020 title to his countryman in dramatic fashion.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, will go in search of a second Tour triumph and Richard Carapaz could also mount a challenge, with Egan Bernal not in the INEOS Grenadiers line-up following his Giro d'Italia triumph.

Chris Froome, winner of the general classification on four occasions, will play a support role in the Israel Start-Up Nation team for Michael Woods, while Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the big stories and standout Opta facts ahead of the 108th edition of the prestigious Grand Tour race, which finishes in Paris on July 18.

 

REFRESHED ROGLIC BIDS TO TURN TABLES

Pogacar went down as the second-youngest winner of the Tour last year behind Frenchman Henri Cornet way back in 1904.

A sensational time-trial ride on the penultimate stage up the Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogacar snatch the yellow jersey from Roglic.

Pogacar won the Tour of Slovenia this month, while Roglic should be refreshed as he will line up for the Grand Depart having not raced for two months.

The defending champion was the first rider to win the yellow jersey, polka dot jersey (mountains classification) and white jersey (young rider classification) in the same Tour de France and will have to deal with a weight of expectation over the new few weeks.

Roglic looked to have the title in the bag last year until Pogacar produced the ride of his life to leave his fellow Slovenian shellshocked.

 

DAUNTING MONT VENTOUX DOUBLE, TWO TIME TRIALS

There will be six mountain stages, three of which will end with high-altitude finishes in a race that will see the riders head to Andorra.

A double climb of Mont Ventoux during the 190-kilometre stage 11 from Sorgues to Malaucene will provide a huge test.

There will also be two individual time trials, on stage five from Change to Laval and the penultimate stage from Libourne to Saint-Emilion.

A 249.1km stage seven from Vierzon to Le Creusot will be the longest in the Tour for 21 years, finishing with a demanding ascent of the Signal d'Ucho and with 3,000 metres of elevation to tackle overall.

 

WORLD CHAMPION ALAPHILIPPE TO FLY THE FLAG

Julian Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to compete in the Tour as world champion since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The world champion was one of the main protagonists at the Tour de Suisse this month but does not expect to mount a challenge to become the first French winner of the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Alaphilippe said: "The main goal at Le Tour will be to get a stage victory. To raise my hands there, at the biggest race in the world, with the world champion jersey on my shoulders, would be something really special.

"The first week is going to be an important one, with several opportunities. We will give our best there, as we always do. A successful Tour for me would be a beautiful victory and to show some good things together with the team."

 

LATE CALL FOR CAVENDISH

Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up to end a three-year wait to compete again in the Tour.

The 36-year-old was on Monday named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter after 2020 green jersey winner Sam Bennett was ruled out due to injury.

Cavendish hinted that he might be ready to retire after the Gent-Wevelgem last year, but he has been resurgent in 2021.

Only the legendary Merckx (34) has more Tour stage victories than Cavendish's tally of 30.

 

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