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Mark Cavendish crashes out of Tour de France and will not break Eddie Merckx’s record

Mark Cavendish will not break Eddie Merckx’s long-standing Tour de France record for stage wins after crashing and abandoning the race during the eighth stage.

Cavendish, 38, came within a few metres of 35th career Tour stage victory in Bordeaux on Friday, which would have taken him past Merckx’s mark but he was forced to withdraw after crashing with around 60km remaining of the Saturday’s 201km stage from Libourne to Limoges.

A touch of wheels in the peloton forced Astana Qazaqstan Team rider Cavendish down and he sat holding his shoulder before being helped into an ambulance.

“When I heard in the race he [Mark Cavendish] had crashed it was a sad moment because he was in good shape,” said two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar.

“I think everybody here wanted him to win one stage and yesterday he was super close. It’s a bad moment.

“He was one of my favourites when we were kids. Him sprinting on the Champs-Elysees, we just wanted to have his style and his legs. They were good moments.”

Cavendish writhes in pain after crashing at the Tour de France (Photo: AFP)

The 2011 world road race champion, three-time world champion on the track and Olympic silver medallist had already confirmed that this would be his 14th and last Tour de France.

On Friday, Cavendish looked as though he was about to make it 35 when he took the lead of the stage with 200 metres to go. But the British rider had a problem with his gears and Jasper Philipsen capitalised to cross split-seconds ahead of him.

But before Saturday’s stage, the second-longest of the tour, a bullish Cavendish told Eurosport he was ready to move on from his misfortune.

“Immediately after it finished I was a bit disappointed and I’m still disappointed but you can’t change things,” Cavendish said.

“At least the positives are there: the boys rode well, I know my sprint is there. Unfortunately mechanicals are part of when you race machines. It is what it is and we try again don’t we?”

Cavendish, who started as a self-described “boy who wanted to fight the world”, won his first stage in Chateauroux in 2008, bursting into the limelight as he claimed another three victories that year.

It was the first of nine Tours in which Cavendish bagged at least a stage win.

Cavendish has repeatedly proclaimed his love for a race that gave him the best moments of his career with two green jerseys for the winner of the points classification, but also the most heartbreaking one on Saturday.

While he was beaten three times in bunch sprints by Belgian Philipsen, Cavendish clocked the fastest speed in two of them, showing his 14th and last Tour would not just be an easy farewell ride.

It ended in the most brutal fashion in a crash that nobody saw coming in the haze of a sunny afternoon before the expected final sprint on a mostly flat stage.

Additional reporting by the Press Association


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