Mark Cavendish’s fairy tale continued as he secured his second win of this year’s Tour de France with victory on stage six into Chateauroux.
Two days after taking his first Tour stage success in five years, Cavendish doubled up as he won ahead of Jasper Philipsen and Nacer Bouhanni.
It was Cavendish’s 32nd career Tour stage victory, and third in Chateauroux – the scene of his very first Tour win back in 2008.
Such was the Manxman’s margin of victory that he had time to recreate his hands-on-head celebration from that day 13 years ago.
Cavendish showed both his pace and his experience in the finale of the 160.6km stage from Tours, coming off the wheel of his Deceuninck-QuickStep lead-out man Michael Morkov to instead latch on to Philipsen’s Alpecin-Fenix train before coming around the Belgian.
“Wow,” Cavendish said. “It’s 10 years since my last win here. It’s pretty special…
“Michael left me space on the left to go but I wanted just a split second longer in the wheels so I had to switch trains.
“But you see the guys, how much they pull. You’ve got the world champion Julian Alaphilippe just burying himself in the last kilometres, it’s something special. I’m buzzing now.”
Cavendish, who has battled illness and injury in recent years, fearing his career was over last winter, was a late call-up to the Tour this year following an injury to Sam Bennett, but again showed himself to be the class of the sprinting field with many more opportunities ahead.
A second victory in three days raised the inevitable question of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stages, but Cavendish once again shrugged it off.
“Don’t say the name,” he said. “I’m not thinking about anything. I just won a stage of the Tour de France. If it was my first or my 32nd, I just won a stage of the Tour de France, it’s what people work their whole lives for.
“If I’m good enough to win another fifty or I never win again, so be it, it’s the Tour de France.
The sprint finish meant no major changes at the top of the general classification, in which Mathieu Van Der Poel continues to lead by eight seconds from defending champion Tadej Pogacar, winner of Wednesday’s time trial.
Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic crossed safely in the pack, but both remain almost two minutes down on Pogacar.
The win keeps Cavendish in the points leader’s green jersey, with his advantage growing from 15 points to 46 as Philipsen climbed up to second place in the classification.