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Mark Cavendish took a step closer to rewriting cycling history when he won stage 6 of the 2021 Tour de France.
The Manx Missile sprinted to his 32nd career Tour de France stage victory behind a textbook leadout train that delivered him to within striking distance of the finish line.
Cavendish, in the green jersey of the points competition leader, came around the fading Alpecin-Fenix riders Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier who had been set up by the current overall race leader Mathieu van der Poel, to take his second win in three days.
Here’s how others reacted to Cav’s victory:
Michael Mørkøv (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 21st, at :00
Michael Mørkøv is often Cavendish’s final leadout man in the Deceuninck-Quick-Step leadout train. While sometimes Mørkøv is not directly in front of Cav with 1km to go, he almost always finds his way back to the front and lets Cav get on his wheel where he’s delivered to striking distance from the line. On stage 6 of the Tour, Mørkøv was instrumental in setting up Cav for another win — which has come as a surprise for the Dane.
“He’s really unbelievable. I said it before the Tour — at the Tour of Belgium — and at the start of the year, that I didn’t feel he had the speed he once had, but seeing the sprint… it’s the Cavendish we know from 10 years ago.”
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): 5th, at :00
While it’s been several years since Peter Sagan has worn green at the Tour de France, the three-time world champion is remarkably consistent. He did not make the podium on stage 6, but he did finish fifth on the day. If any rider can prise the points jersey from Cavendish, it could well be Sagan — with the help of some rolling terrain to distance Cav before the finish.
“We had a very fast sprint where I finished fifth. I still have a bit of knee pain but, again, I gave my absolute best. It’s a good thing we didn’t have any crashes and that we are all sound and safe. We’ll see tomorrow how everything goes.”
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): 34th, at :00
The current overall Tour de France race leader has been helping lead out his teammates Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen when he’s not acting as caretaker of the yellow jersey. He’s set up the Alpecin-Fenix sprinters by delivering them to within 150m of the finish line. And this was precisely where Cavendish detached the duo from his wheel on stage 6.
“I did what I could but I believe that they lost my wheel. We were able to get back in place but it wasn’t enough. Cavendish is just the fastest right now, that’s the problem.”
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic), 3rd, at :00
Bouhanni has been right in Cavendish’s shadow for the two stages which the “Wolfpack” rider has has won. Bouhanni’s high cadence, aggressive sprinting may pay off at some point, but it might take some luck, too, if the French rider is to score a win on home soil without the leadout trains which Deceuninck-Quick-Step, Alpecin-Fenix, and even Bora-Hansgrohe have at their disposal.
“With a wind at your back, whoever throws first had the advantage. I came back but too late. I hope to win one.”