Mark Cavendish’s bid for Tour de France record put in early jeopardy

Sir Mark Cavendish appeared to be ill early on the opening stage of the Tour de France as his pursuit of a record-breaking 35th stage win was put in immediate doubt.

The Manxman was dropped by the peloton on the first of seven categorised climbs on the 206km stage between Florence and Rimini, and appeared to be vomiting as his Astana-Qazaqstan team-mates dropped back and poured water on him in searing heat in Tuscany.

As the race had rolled out of the Italian city close to where he owns a home, Cavendish had enthusiastically waved to the crowds but it soon became apparent that all was not well as the roads began to ramp up on an unusually testing opening stage.

Surrounded by his team-mates, Cavendish lost more than three minutes on the main peloton during the climb, leaving him in a fight to make the time cut even if he manages to complete the stage.

Cavendish, 39, postponed his planned retirement after crashing out of last year’s Tour, returning to take one more shot at claiming the Tour stage win record outright, having matched Eddy Merckx in 2021.