Just like 13 years ago, both hands instinctively went up to his head. Just like before, Mark Cavendish’s face juggled joy and disbelief.
Unlike back then, no one else should be surprised by this latest fairytale finish.
Not on the roads of Chateauroux, where Cavendish remains undefeated since his first stage victory on the Tour in 2008. Not when a little space opened up on Thursday and the Manx made their entrance. Not even after turning 36 in May.
Mark Cavendish (above) celebrates his second Tour de France stage victory this year
It was typical of Cavendish in the final sprint of stage six. Rider Deceuninck-Quick-Step beat Jasper Philipsen and Nacer Bouhanni to win by three-quarter length.
This is his second stage victory this week and a third at Chateauroux, placing him within two of Eddy Merckx’s historic record of 34.
“Don’t say the name,” Cavendish said afterward. ‘I do not think about anything.
“If it was my first or my 32nd, I just won a stage in the Tour de France. This is what people ride all their lives for.
“I am very, very happy. If I’m good enough to win another 50 or never win again, so be it.
The 36-year-old beat the field in a sprint to win stage six in style on Thursday
A handful of sprint opportunities remain over the next few weeks, notably on the Champs-Elysées. He couldn’t break the record, could he, after his recent battles with injury and illness?
After a 160.6 km race from Tours, Cavendish was led by teammate Michael Morkov before moving to the forefront and strengthening his grip on the green jersey.
“Wow,” he added. “It’s been 10 years since I won here. It is quite special.
This is the third time he has won at Châteauroux, including his first Tour victory in 2008 and 2011
“You see guys, how much they shoot. You have the world champion Julian Alaphilippe who has just buried himself in the last kilometers. This is something special. I’m buzzing. ‘
Cavendish’s victory didn’t lead to any big changes in the yellow jersey race. Mathieu van der Poel still leads defending champion Tadej Pogacar by eight seconds, Geraint Thomas 12th.
During this time, the spectator who would have caused the pile-up which left 21 injured among the runners will escape legal or criminal prosecution. The Tour de France withdrew its complaint after the woman’s arrest on Wednesday.