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VN Awards: History makers of the year

Mark Cavendish and Marianne Vos make their mark on the history books.

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The 2021 VeloNews Awards are running all the rest of the month for VeloNews and Outside+ members.

Marianne Vos is the absolute boss of the Giro d’Italia Donne. Vos scored her 29th and 30th victories at the Giro this summer, further extending her record at the race and making her outstanding win-tally up to a nice round number.

Vos’s achievement is only magnified by examining her pathway to such an impressive feat.

After taking her first Giro victory when she was just 20 years old in her 2007 race debut, Vos tasted the winner’s Prosecco at least once during each of her subsequent appearances, with the final tally equaling 30 wins over 10 editions and 14 years. If there were ever benchmarks of consistency and relentlessness, it would be Vos’s Giro record.

It was both timely and fitting that Mark Cavendish hailed Vos as his “inspiration” and the “greatest of all time” when he was midway through his Tour de France campaign this summer.

Cavendish, too, was on the road to writing his name into the record books in his 13th Tour start. After the “Manx Missle” started the race as a late replacement for Sam Bennett, many doubted if he could convert a series of victories in smaller stage races into wins at the biggest race in the world. Cavendish had not long returned to form after several years suffering illnesses and injuries, and the Tour’s sprint field was stacked.

Cavendish silenced the doubters at the very first opportunity, winning the second sprint stage of the Tour, and going on to take a further three victories and the green jersey. The Manxman’s four-stage haul left him equal on stage-wins with Eddy Merckx after the Belgian legend made hay with 34 Tour victories through the early 70s.

To parallel a racer from 50 years ago with one from today is to compare apples and oranges given the huge shift in tech, race tactics, and specialization. But it is worth noting that Merckx’s 34 scores came from an array of scenarios, with 13 of those from time trials.

Just like Vos is the undisputed “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) of the Giro, Cavendish’s triumphant comeback at this year’s Tour surely stamps him as the greatest grand tour sprinter of all time.