Cavendish wins 31st stage at Tour de France and takes the green jersey
Mark Cavendish rolled back the years and sprinted to his first Tour de France victory since 2016, in what will go down as one of the best stories in the history of a race that doesn’t lack amazing moments. A late call-up to Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s squad for the biggest race in the world, the 36-year-old delivered a perfect acceleration inside the final 200 meters of stage 4 and won by a bike length, enhancing his fantastic palmares and legacy in emphatic fashion.
“I’m in shock, even more than when I got word that I would do Le Tour this year. Just being here is special, because I didn’t think for one moment I would come back to this beautiful race that I love so much. I’m in complete disbelief, I don’t know what to say. So many people didn’t believe in me, but these guys did and continued to do it”, said an emotional Mark as he fought to hold back the tears.
Running between Redon and Fougères – incidentally, the site of Cavendish’s previous Tour de France stage win with the Wolfpack – stage 4 was the last one in Bretagne and looked to be an easy one for the peloton, who had to control just two escapees. The field looked in charge, even more so when the break fragmented, until with ten kilometers to go, when they found themselves one full minute behind the lone leader of the race.
A mad chase ensued, with Kasper Asgreen, Mattia Cattaneo and Dries Devenyns storming to the front and taking a big chunk of the deficit, but it was still hanging in the balance going under the flamme rouge. A massive pull of World Champion Julian Alaphilippe helped the chasers make up significant ground and move within reach of making the contact, which they did just as the road was beginning tilting upwards, with an agonizingly 200 meters to go.
Having been brought in position by the excellent Michael Mørkøv, Mark waited for the last 150 meters to pounce, unleashing a brilliant turn of the pedals that gave him the edge over all of his opponents on the curved finish in Fougères, where he celebrated his 31st win at the Tour de France and his 50th victory for the team, one that will ring over the years.
“When you have the World Champion and green jersey wearer giving everything and sacrificing himself for you, then Michael who played it so smart and remained calm at all times, it just motivates you to do the best. It was a hectic finale, and we had to throw our initial plan to the wind and adapt, but the guys did a flawless job and delivered me perfectly. They were absolutely brilliant and all I can say is a massive thank you!”
Tuesday’s resounding victory – his first in five years at the Tour de France – cemented Mark’s position as the best sprinter in the race’s history and brought him also the prestigious green jersey, which he last got to wear in 2016.
“Before today, my last Tour win with the team had been in Fougères, so to raise my hands again here for another win is just… I don’t know, it’s the kind of stuff that makes everything even more perfect. You couldn’t have written this thing. I’ve won so many races in my career and this one definitely is one of the best. I am so grateful to Patrick, to my coach Vasilis, to everyone in the squad. It’s hard to imagine how this team is if you’re from the outside, but believe me, this really is a Wolfpack and I am incredibly happy to be part of it.”
Photo credit: © Tim De Waele / Getty Images