Cavendish equals Tour stage win record

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Mark Cavendish has equalled the Tour de France record for stage wins after claiming his 34th victory.

Cavendish moved level with Eddy Merckx as he took victory in Carcassonne ahead of his own lead-out man Michael Morkov, with Jasper Philipsen third at the end of the 220km 13th stage from Nimes.

It also marked Cavendish's fourth win of this year's Tour.

The 36-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable return to form after taking part in cycling's biggest race for the first time since 2018.

Cavendish secured a new contract with his former Deceuninck Quick Step team for this year after returning from a bout of depression and several seasons of struggles on and off the bike.

But he was not expected to ride in the Tour and did not train specifically for the three-week race.

However, he was a late call-up last month as a replacement for Sam Bennett, the best sprinter of last year's Tour.

He has capitalised on an unexpected selection, winning his first stages in the race since 2016.

Cavendish moves level with the Belgian Merckx, a five-time overall winner of the Tour, who took the last of his stage wins in 1975.

If he can stay safe through the mountain stages to come, Isle of Man's Cavendish should have two more opportunities to take the record outright, first on stage 19 into Libourne and then on the final day on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

There was no significant change in the general classification as race leader Tadej Pogacar enjoyed a quiet day in the peloton.

Pogacar kept his five minute, 18 second lead over second-placed Rigoberto Uran, with Jonas Vingegaard in third, 5min:33sec off the pace.

Cavendish looked exhausted after the finish before being mobbed by his team-mates.

"It's tiring," he said.

"I can't even think about (the record). I'm afraid I'm so dead after 220km in that heat, that wind and that finale, phwoar.

"I went deep, I went so deep there. The boys were incredible. I can't believe it.

"A lot of the day it didn't feel like it (was going to happen) but it had to happen because I had the guys riding like they were."

Asked about the record, he said: "I haven't realised it.

"It's still just another win on the Tour de France. It's like my first one. I've won a stage of the Tour de France. It's what I dreamed of as a kid and it's what I dream of now.

"I've worked so hard for it. We've seen such a growth, especially in the UK, of cycling since I've started racing here at the Tour de France.

"If any one of my wins can inspire the kids to ride the Tour de France or the Tour de France Femmes from next year when they grow up, that's what means the most to me I think."

Cavendish jostled for position in the last 2km of Friday's stage to stay on the wheel of lead-out man Morkov.

He looked trapped in traffic with 300m left but zigzagged to the front and comfortably won ahead of Morkov and Philipsen.

Cavendish's Deceuninck-QuickStep team worked well to mark the early moves of Friday's stage before allowing a three-man move to get up the road.

The race came back together later on - a tense finish marked by a significant crash with 65km to go - but Cavendish's team-mates bossed the road in the citadel to position him for victory.

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