By Ian Parker, PA
Mark Cavendish’s fairy tale continued as he secured his second win of this year’s Tour de France and the 32nd of his storied career with victory on stage six into Chateauroux.
Two days after taking his first Tour stage success in five years, Cavendish doubled up as he comfortably won ahead of Jasper Philipsen and Nacer Bouhanni.
It completed a hat-trick of victories for Cavendish in Chateauroux – the scene of his first Tour win back in 2008 and his 17th in 2011 – and also brought up 50 Grand Tour stage wins in total.
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 1, 2021
And such was the Manxman’s margin of victory that he had time to recreate his hands-on-head celebration from that day 13 years ago.
Cavendish showed both his pace and his experience in the finale of the 160.6km stage from Tours, coming off the wheel of his Deceuninck-QuickStep lead-out man Michael Morkov to instead latch on to Philipsen’s Alpecin-Fenix train before coming around the Belgian.
“Wow,” Cavendish said. “It’s 10 years since my last win here. It’s pretty special…
“Michael left me space on the left to go but I wanted just a split second longer in the wheels so I had to switch trains.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) July 1, 2021
“But you see the guys, how much they pull. You’ve got the world champion Julian Alaphilippe just burying himself in the last kilometres, it’s something special. I’m buzzing now.”
Cavendish, who has battled illness and injury in recent years, fearing his career was over last winter, was a late call-up to the Tour this year following an injury to Sam Bennett, but again showed himself to be the class of the sprinting field with more opportunities ahead if he can survive the mountains.
If there was a sense of disbelief in his celebrations on Monday, there was somehow an air of inevitability about this victory, such is the assuredness now flowing through the 36-year-old.
“It’s not like I was more confident, but I guess the thing is there’s less of a shock if that makes sense,” he added.
“Like you knew you could do it, it’s not that you knew you would, but you knew you could, and then it’s just about putting the processes in place and not relying on luck quite so much.
“But it’s just an absolute honour to be here and this means just as much as Tuesday’s win, and just as much as that win 13 years ago.”
A second victory in three days raised the inevitable question of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour stages, but Cavendish once again shrugged it off.
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) July 1, 2021
“Don’t say the name,” he said. “I’m not thinking about anything. I just won a stage of the Tour de France. If it was my first or my 32nd, I just won a stage of the Tour de France, it’s what people work their whole lives for.
“If I’m good enough to win another fifty or I never win again, so be it, it’s the Tour de France.”
The sprint finish meant no major changes at the top of the general classification, in which Mathieu Van Der Poel continues to lead by eight seconds from defending champion Tadej Pogacar, winner of Wednesday’s time trial.
Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic crossed safely in the pack, but both remain almost two minutes down on Pogacar.
The win keeps Cavendish in the points leader’s green jersey, with his advantage growing from 15 points to 46 as Philipsen climbed up to second place in the classification.