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    Tour de France: Mark Cavendish’s legendary career ends with a crash
    • July 8, 2023

    LIMOGES, France — Mark Cavendish will have to share the Tour de France record for most career stage wins at cycling’s biggest race.

    Competing in his final season, the ace sprinter from the Isle of Man who is known as “The Manx Missile,” crashed out of the race during the eighth stage Saturday.

    Cavendish equaled Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour stage wins during the 2021 edition, 13 years after his first success, but was not selected last year.

    With Cavendish out of the picture, former world champion Mads Pedersen claimed a second career stage win at the Tour de France on Saturday with a big burst of power to win a mass sprint.

    Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard kept the yellow jersey after the 201-kilometer (125-mile) stage from Libourne to Limoges in central France.

    Pedersen proved the strongest in the long final stretch of road leading to the finish line and the Danish rider held off a late challenge from Jasper Philipsen, who had won all three previous sprints this year.

    “My boys gave me a perfect leadout,” said Pedersen, who rides for the Lidl-Trek team. “The final stretch was very painful. I still had the legs to finish it off.”

    Vingegaard spent the day well protected by his Jumbo-Visma teammates and kept his 25-second lead over two-time champion Tadej Pogacar in the general classification. Jai Hindley remained in third place, 1 minute, 34 seconds off the pace.

    The pulsating duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard is expected to resume during Sunday’s ninth stage, which finishes with a spectacular climb to Puy-de-Dome, a famed volcanic crater in the Massif Central region of south-central France which last hosted a stage 35 years ago.

    This edition was Cavendish’s last chance to become the outright record-holder after he announced in May during the Giro d’Italia race that he will retire from cycling at the end of this season. Cavendish ended the Giro in style, winning the final stage in the historic center of Rome to post his 17th stage win at the Italian Grand Tour.

    The British rider had finished second in Friday’s seventh stage of the Tour when Jasper Philipsen denied the rider a 35th stage win.

    The 38-year-old former world champion hit the ground Saturday with 64 kilometers (40 miles) left while riding at the back of the peloton at about 45 kph (28 mph). TV images showed the veteran rider lying on the ground and then holding his right shoulder in pain.

    Cavendish’s teammate Gianni Moscon said the veteran rider had to brake suddenly because of a crash in front of him.

    “And someone changed line and he just hit the rear wheel of the guy in front of him and went down,” Moscon said. “It was quite bad. I stayed with him to see how he was, but he wasn’t able to go on with the race so we had to go back in the peloton.”

    Cavendish went inside an ambulance to receive treatment and looked ashen-faced before his retirement from the race was announced.

    Merckx amassed his wins in the 1960s and 70s, an era during which his domination was such that he earned the nickname of “The Cannibal.” Unlike Merckx – who did it a record five times – Cavendish has never won the Tour.

    But his speed, prowess and longevity among his fellow sprinters have no equal at the Tour.

    “It’s so sad for a legend to finish the Tour like this,” said former world champion Mads Pedersen, who won Saturday’s stage in a mass sprint. “For me it was a pleasure to be able to ride with Mark Cavendish. I always had a good relationship with him in the peloton. Hopefully I can do some of the last races he does.”

    Cavendish became the fifth rider to abandon this year’s race after Enric Mas, Richard Carapaz, Jacopo Guarnieri and Luis Leon Sanchez, who all crashed out. That became six toward the end of Saturday’s stage when Belgian rider Steff Cras was caught in yet another pileup and retired.

    Cavendish was not selected for last year’s edition of the Tour by his former Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team and joined the Astana-Qazaqstan team in January to extend his storied career by one season, hoping that he would add at least more more stage win to his tally.

    Cavendish also won the Tour de France best sprinter’s green jersey twice. He has won stages at all three Grand Tour races – Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta – and became a world champion in 2011.

    ​ Orange County Register