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‘The best sprinter of all time’: cycling hails Mark Cavendish’s feat
Cycling Sport

‘The best sprinter of all time’: cycling hails Mark Cavendish’s feat

Mark Cavendish’s record-breaking 35th stage win in the Tour de France was hailed by cycling’s great and good, especially as it came only days after he had almost been forced to quit this year’s race due to heatstroke.

In eclipsing the five-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins, at 39, Cavendish, riding for the Astana Qazaqstan team, has confirmed his status as the greatest sprinter in the history of cycling.

With his first stage success coming in 2008, Cavendish’s 35 wins have now spanned almost two decades. The race leader, Tadej Pogacar, born in 1998, was only nine when the sprint prodigy from the Isle of Man took his first ­victory in the Tour.

“When I was a kid, I watched Mark with my friends and with my brother,” said the Slovenian, who was one of the first to hug Cavendish in the finish line area. “He was just a hero to so many of us. Over the six years I have been racing against him, we have become quite good friends, so it’s a historical moment.”

As a sprinter, Cavendish has never been short on self-belief and Sir Dave Brailsford, a pivotal figure in his early career, recalled their first meeting. “He walked into my office and declared that he was going to be the best sprinter in the world. I was a bit taken aback but I shouldn’t have been, because here he is, the best sprinter of all time.”

Mark Cavendish and Tadej PogacarView image in fullscreen

“I cannot admire him more though,” Brailsford added. “Not for how he burst on the scene as a youngster but for his mentality and grit to keep going and winning through the adversities he’s had. That’s what sets him apart and makes him a true champion.”

The 2018 Tour de France winner, Geraint Thomas, described Cavendish’s longevity as a sprinter as “unbelievable”. “I thought he could do it,” the Ineos Grenadiers rider said. “He always suffers, he always has a bad day in the mountains. He can get through it with a good team around him.”

Thomas added: “He just has to be there and see the finish line. It’s great that he’s now officially got that record alone. I wouldn’t put it past him to win another one.”

Cavendish’s training partner and long-term friend Alex Dowsett, a former British national champion said: “I’m utterly delighted for him. I’ve been asked a lot if he was going to do it. The answer was always the same.”

Dowsett continued: “You never bet against Mark Cavendish and he proved that today. He looked so relaxed coming into that final, with his body language in the bunch. He looked like he had it all under control. He made all the right decisions, and he was in his absolute element.”

Brian Cookson, a former long-term president of British Cycling, described Cavendish’s record-breaking win as “an amazing achievement”. “It’s a fantastic reward for all those who have had a part in his career, from the very beginning on the Isle of Man through to this brilliant result today, so many years later.

“Today was classic Cav, the skill, the nous to find his way through a hectic finale, the determination and the sheer bloody-mindedness that has driven him to achieve so much. We have witnessed so many special moments from Cav, and this was perhaps the finest.”

Source: theguardian.com