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Mark Cavendish relishing one final tilt at new Tour de France stage win record
Cycling Sport

Mark Cavendish relishing one final tilt at new Tour de France stage win record

Mark Cavendish’s final tilt at claiming a record-breaking 35th stage win at the Tour de France begins in earnest on Monday when he targets victory in the longest day of this year’s race, the 230km haul from Piacenza to Turin.

“I’m more ready now than I was last year,” Cavendish, who currently shares the record of 34 stage wins with the great Eddy Merckx, said on Friday afternoon. “I’m so happy I carried on, actually.”

The 39-year-old starts the 2024 Tour determined to avenge the bitter disappointment of a year ago, when he was forced out of the race with a broken collarbone just as he came into his best form. Now, after postponing his retirement, he goes again, for the very last time.

“People try and take away from what I do, but one thing I’m very proud of is the length of my career,” he said. “Fundamentally, to do something for that long, is something I’m very proud of.”

His planned exit from cycling was soon shelved after a plea from his Astana Qazaqstan team boss, Alexandre Vinokourov, to continue into 2024. “I got back from the hospital to see the guys, and straight away Vino’s like: ‘You can’t stop now, you’ve got to do another year,’” he said.

Cavendish had come agonisingly close to taking that elusive record-breaking win in Bordeaux, only to be pipped at the line by Jasper Philipsen, of Alpecin-Deceuninck, who went on to win four stages in 2023.

This July, Cavendish has stronger backup, with a school of pilot fish, including longstanding lieutenant Michael Mørkøv, dedicated to achieving success.

“They’re brilliant boys,” Cavendish said of his teammates. “To have those on board, everything we have with the team, to have each piece in place – I don’t want any excuse.

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“Every component we had was a factor in me continuing another year. I couldn’t be happier. We all get on super well. We’ve trained together, raced together, all year, knowing the goal.”

If the hilly first two stages are more likely to be a playground for the Tour’s “big four” of Tadej Pogacar, Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic and Tour debutant Remco Evenepoel, the route of the stage to Turin, with only three minor climbs, is ideally suited to Cavendish.

Source: theguardian.com