Cavendish approaches Merckx’s Tour de France record with new stage win

Mark Cavendish’s comeback gained momentum on Thursday as he won his second stage in three days with a one-day triumph for pure sprinters past a 1.7km straight house in Chateauroux.

After a barren five-year stint on the Tour, the sixth stage victory brought Cavendish’s tally of the world’s greatest cycling race to 32, just two short of the record of 34 held by Belgian great Eddy Merckx.

“Please don’t ask me that question,” Cavendish said on the line when asked about the record.

On a pancake flat sixth stage over a scenic 160km trek through the Loire Valley, Dutch rookie Mathieu van der Poel held on to the yellow jersey in a race that went on for the first time on this edition without major incidents.

The stage finished in actor Gerard Depardieu’s hometown, a town Cavendish knows well after two previous stage wins in 2008 and 2011 in a sprint befitting final and on Thursday produced another deadly last-second jump before the line.

Two days ago Cavendish shook his head in disbelief after winning stage four, but he was all grace and smiles after launching his 70kph (43.5mph) finish at a cue from world champion teammate Julian Alaphilippe.

The Isle of Man rider also retained the green jersey, although he came out of the top three in the intermediate sprint won by Italian Sonny Colbrelli, who wagged his finger at Cavendish after feeling himself cross his line.

Friday’s stage is the longest of the Tour and has a finish that’s hard to call: either an uproar from the pack or perhaps another chance for Cavendish to take a step towards Merckx’s record.


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