Mark Cavendish celebrated his first stage victory in the Tour de France since 2016 by sprinting to a touching victory at Fougères.
The 36-year-old Manxman broke down in tears as he was congratulated by team-mates Deceuninck-QuickStep and rivals at the end of a dramatic stage in which fumble Brent Van Moer was not deprived of victory only less than 200 meters from the line.
It was a 31st career Tour stage victory for Cavendish, who also won the last race at Fougeres in 2015.
Mark Cavendish celebrated his first Tour de France stage victory since 2016 on Tuesday afternoon
The 36-year-old Manxman broke down in tears as he was congratulated by his teammates
This leaves him three points behind the all-time winning record held by Belgian Eddy Merckx.
The win crowned a fairytale return to the Tour for Cavendish, who feared his career would end in winter before capitalizing on the lifeline offered by Deceuninck-QuickStep.
But the four-time world champion – who didn’t even expect to compete in this year’s race – watched the class act from the sprint field as he rounded Jasper Philipsen and pushed Nacer Bouhanni back to win by a length of the bike. .
He now settles in the green jersey as the leader of the points classification in stride.
Van Moer, who was part of a two-man breakaway that day, set off on his own with 14 kilometers to go, building a lead of around a minute that stubbornly refused to drop as the field struggled to get organized behind.
But after Cavendish’s team set out on the hunt – led by world champion Julian Alaphilippe – Belgian rider Van Moer was finally pulled up in sight of the line at the end of the 150.4km stage. from Redon.
It was a 31st career Tour stage victory for Cavendish, who also won at Fougeres in 2015
This leaves him three points behind the all-time winning record held by Belgian Eddy Merckx
Cavendish, who has battled demons on and off the bike in recent years, struggled to calm down in his podium interview.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Just being here is pretty special. I didn’t think I would ever come back to this race.
“Fireman, just the fire of the whole team. We didn’t know if we were going to get them.
“You see how great a team they are. You have the green jersey, the world champion Julian Alaphilippe comes to make the final draw just to try to catch up with the breakaway, by putting everything in place. So many people didn’t believe in me but these guys do.
Cavendish was a late addition to the team’s touring squad following an injury to Irishman Sam Bennett, but he seized the opportunity with both hands.
“I thought I would never come back to this race. When you come to Deceuninck-QuickStep they have the best runners in the world so it was not a thought for me to come here.
“But the stars somehow aligned.
“I would never want bad things to happen to other people, but after the last few years, it’s good to be lucky for myself.”