‘Whatever happens next, Mark Cavendish’s comeback is the story of the 2021 Tour de France’

Eurosport’s Brian Smith and Magnus Backstedt told Orla Chennaoui that they have every confidence that Mark Cavendish will go on to beat Eddy Merckx’s record for Tour de France stage wins this year.

Cavendish stormed to his third stage of the 2021 Tour in Valence on Tuesday to move to 33 career wins at the French Grand Tour and just one shy of Merckx’s all-time tally.

And Smith believes that the headline story of this year’s Tour is already written, with almost two weeks of the race still remaining.

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“Maybe I’m slightly biased because I’ve worked with him, but I think regardless of how the rest of this race pans out, this is the story,” the former DS said.

“Mark Cavendish is the story of this Tour de France, the Cavendish comeback. Cav is the story, put it to bed, irrelevant want happens next.

I do believe he’ll go and get the record. But can you imagine, 35th win to beat Eddy Merckx’s record in Paris – that’s the dream.

Cavendish could go on to beat Merckx’s record in the next fortnight, but Smith explained why his status as the best sprinter in the history of the sport is already secure.

“He says he’s humbled by the team, but the team are humbled by him. They are working for the best sprinter ever in the history of cycling, who’s just about to possibly take this record during this race.

“When you’ve got somebody like that who’s already won two stages it’s a hell of a lot easier to gain that confidence and go the extra mile. It’s a different scenario when you’re on the back foot. Confidence breeds confidence.

“Let me put this in context. The certain person who’s got this record won prologues and time trials. So on road stages Mark Cavendish is already ahead of everybody. I think the closest amount of road stages won by one person is about 22, so he’s far ahead of everybody else.”

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And Backstedt added that this comeback is already a cycling classic story.

“Last year he wasn’t sure if he was ever going to see a bike race again,” he said.

“This year he didn’t think he was going to see the Tour again. Now he’s back here and winning stages.

“In terms of comebacks in store it’s monumental. He knows he’s the fast man in the bunch, he’s going to want that record.”

You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.

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Classy Cavendish credits team and reveals his green jersey strategy after third stage win

For Mark Cavendish the emotions and celebrations of his first stage win of the 2021 Tour de France are a thing of the past. He is now the standout favourite to win the green jersey and clearly the fastest sprinter in the race. And he knows it.

Speaking immediately after his win in Stage 10, the ‘Manx Missile’ credited his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates for guiding him to a third win of the race – a victory that moves him to 33 Tour de France wins and within just one of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record.

“It was an old-school, run-of-the-mill, like you read in a cycling magazine, textbook lead out,” a beaming Cavendish said. “Just get the lads on the front, pull as fast as they can so no-one can come up and try and come past you.

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“We knew this finish, because I didn’t make it last time we came here in 2015, I got dropped and Andre Greipel won. We knew to take that last corner wide and keep the speed. It actually split in the wind, but we didn’t try to do that. We were confident that we had the team for the sprint.

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“I’m just humbled man. You’ve got the winner of the Tour of Flanders, you’ve got the World Champion who’s had the yellow jersey also here, you’ve got Morkov who’s going to the Olympics to try and win that, you’ve got the Omloop het Nieuwsblad winner, all just leaving everything on the road for me. I had to finish it off you know.

“I didn’t really do anything until about 150m, it was the team, I have them to thank for everything.”

The 36-year-old Brit now leads the Points Classification standings by 59 points and, if he can make it across the mountains, is favourite to take the green jersey in Paris.

But Cavendish says that picking up intermediate points will not be the strategy. It is all about stage wins.

“When I go for the green jersey I don’t go for that, I go for stages and hope the green comes from that,” he said.

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For Deceuninck this was the team’s fourth stage win out of ten so far in the race, and Cavendish’s main lead out main Michael Morkov said the team were delighted with how perfectly the plan panned out.

“This is how we planned the final, that’s true,” Morkov told Eurosport. “It’s maybe one in 20 that succeed like this. We saw Cav had very big confidence and we had confidence in him.

To be a part of such a lead out is a very proud moment for me. When I launched my sprint, I was sure we would win.

“He’s hard to compare. He’s a legend in terms of sprinting. He’s the sprinter who has won the most races. It’s a huge pressure for me to ride with him, he has so much experience himself and we are just having an amazing Tour ride now.”

You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.

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Wiggins: 'Supreme' Pogacar performance is 'game over' for Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins believes it will take a miracle for Tadej Pogacar not to win the Tour de France.

Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) claimed the yellow jersey on Saturday after finishing fourth in Stage 8 and was in scintillating form.

The Slovenian kicked into high gear on the first day in the Alps and opened up a comfortable gap over his rivals in the overall standings.

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podio pogacar

Image credit: Eurosport

Wiggins was amazed by Pogacar’s performance and said the 22-year-old has blown the race to pieces.

“I would say it’s game over,” Wiggins said speaking on his latest podcast from France.

From that point of view, barring injuries and crashes, I can’t see him losing his form at this stage in the race.

“Having said that, anything can happen. We’ve got two weeks to go.

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“Once he’s put his nose in the wind…that time trial the other day and today, I know he didn’t win the stage today but he came very close.

“He went from such a long way out on a very tough course, [the] first day in the Alps, and he’s blown the race to pieces, quite frankly.

“But a great performance from Wout van Aert. [He finished] In second place and we were talking about his GC chances and today was going to be a day where we’ll find out more in that department.

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“I know he’s dismissed that and brushed it off, said he’s too heavy, but well, come on man. You’ve got to start looking at that. There’s a podium in it.”

Closest to Pogacar are Team Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert and Astana Pro rider Alexey Lutsenko, but Wiggins can’t see any rival getting near the yellow jersey holder.

“You always want a bike race and never underestimate your opponents and you always want to say it’s never over until they ride into Paris, but you just can’t see anyone else in the same league as him at the moment. He’s clearly the best athlete. Sadly, that’s the way it is,” Wiggins explained.

“His biggest adversaries have fallen away with injuries. Geraint Thomas obviously went away very early today and pretty much (Primoz) Roglic.

“But you have to say this guy is a supreme talent. He’s clearly moved on again from last year.

But it was a dominant display and in some ways I said it was a little bit boring, the outcome. Not a boring race, it was great to watch.

“A whittling down process and a sheer display of dominance from Tadej Pogacar and UAE after a tough day yesterday when the race put them on the rack. They bounced back and stuck it to them.”

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While Pogacar enjoyed an excellent day, it was another frustrating race for Thomas who fell away due to injuries.

He would eventually finish 174th, 35 minutes behind stage winner Dylan Teuns and Wiggins admitted it was heart-breaking to see Thomas struggling.

“Who knows [if he’ll finish the Tour]. You can’t underestimate the injuries sustained and the knock on effect of that,” Wiggins said.

“It’s not a simple thing is it, just popping it back in and getting back going again. He’s a class act and he was great before. We’d have seen him a lot more this Tour had he not had that injury.

“It’s a real shame because he was one of my favourites to win this race. I think he’s a great guy and one of the best cyclists we’ve ever produced.”

He added: “He lays it down and has crashes, but I would say he also produces the goods. He’s won a lot of races.”

You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.

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Tour de France standings – GC, points jersey, mountains classification

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) bids to defend the title he snatched on the final competitive stage in 2020. The Slovenian stunned compatriot Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on the Stage 20 individual time trial, allowing him to wear the yellow jersey into Paris.

Both riders will return but this time there is an extra threat: a rejuvenated Ineos Grenadiers. Ineos had a difficult 2020 Tour as Egan Bernal battled a back injury, leaving them without a serious GC challenger, but return with an imposing squad. Former champion Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz will share leadership duties, with Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart poised as super-domestiques.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–QuickStep) is out to make an impression having worn yellow at the past two Tours – although not when it truly matters. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) also arrive with GC ambitions.

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Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck–QuickStep) headlines the sprinters’ party, having been drafted in for the 2020 green jersey Sam Bennett. Can he close the gap on Eddy Merckx in the all-time stage wins chart? The Brit is on 30, four behind the legendary Belgian.

Head here to find out how to watch cycling’s biggest event, or head over here for a guide to the stages, schedule, route map and more…

Who is top of the GC standings (yellow jersey)?

After Stage 8

  • 1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 29h 38′ 25″
  • 2. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma +1′ 48″
  • 3. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech +4′ 38″
  • 4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo + 4′ 46″
  • 5. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma +5′ 00″
  • 6. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers + 5′ 01″
  • 7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora – Hansgrohe + 5′ 13″
  • 8. Eric Mas (Spa) Movistar Team +5′ 15″
  • 9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama – FDJ + 5′ 52″
  • 10. Peio Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain Victorious + 6′ 41″

Who is top of the points classification (green jersey)?

After Stage 8

  • 1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Deceuninck-QuickStep, 168 points
  • 2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange, 113
  • 3. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin – Fenix 103
  • 4. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin – Felix, 102
  • 5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic, 99

Who is top of the mountains classification (polka dot jersey?)

After Stage 8

  • 1. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious 23 points
  • 2. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation 16
  • 3. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious 12

Who is top of the young rider’s classification (white jersey)?

After Stage 8

  • 1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 29h 38′ 25″
  • 2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma +5′ 00″
  • 3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ +5′ 52″

– – –

You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now. You can also watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free racing on GCN+live & ad-free racing on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream exclusive cycling documentaries.

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