Tour de France Stage 5: Mark Cavendish Takes Record-Breaking 35th Win

Defying the odds, the Manx Missile becomes the most successful stage winner in Tour de France history. 


Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan)
Race leader: 
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

Mark Cavendish has more Tour de France stage wins than any other man in history.

Nearly a year to the day after he abandoned what was supposed to be his final Tour de France, nearly a year and two days from the moment that almost was, the Manx Missile did exactly what he set out to do, exactly what his team was built to do. He won a sprint stage in the Tour de France, the thirty-fifth of his career.

And it wasn’t particularly close.

“I’m in disbelief. We’ve done it,” Cavendish said after the race.

Mark Cavendish on the podium after winning stage 5 of the 2024 Tour de France
Photo: A.S.O./Jonathan Biche

Soon after, the week’s other history maker, Biniam Girmay, interrupted the interview to wrap Cavendish in a big hug.

“The team took a gamble,” he added, commenting on his choice to return to racing for another shot at the record. “How we built the team, the equipment, every little detail has been put toward today.”

In breaking the record, thirty-nine-year-old Cavendish became the second-oldest rider ever to win a Tour de France stage. Pino Cerami won 1963’s ninth stage at forty-one years old.

READ MORE: Can Mark Cavendish Catch (And Pass) Eddy Merckx

After a brutal first week that featured a first day with 12,000 metres of climbing and a proper mountain stage that included the Col du Galibier, Wednesday provided a bit of respite for everyone, viewers included.

The second flat stage of this year’s Tour de France, Stage 5, stretched over 177.4 kilometres. From the start in Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to the finish in Saint-Vulbas, the stage sloped gently downward, losing a total of 282 metres of elevation from beginning to end. However, the day did include a pair of category 4 climbs: the 1.5-kilometre, 4.3% Côte du Cheval Blanc, and the 3-kilometre, 4.8-percent Côte de Lhuis, neither of which made this anything but a sprint stage.

Riders at the 2024 Tour de France
Photo: A.S.O./Charly Lopez

Nonetheless, Groupama-FDJ’s Clément Russo and TotalEnergies’ Mattéo Vercher spent most of the day off the front, hovering around two and a half minutes clear of the peloton in a breakaway that kicked off in km thirty.

Current yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar had a close call with just under sixty kilometres to go, as he narrowly avoided crashing directly into a median. However, his evasive move caused a small pile-up behind him, taking down a few Movistar riders, a Lott-Dstny man, and Bahrain Victorious’ Pello Bilbao. Luckily, no one appeared to suffer any race-altering injuries.

A few kms later, just after the peloton crossed the line for the day’s intermediate sprint, a light rain started to fall, the slick roads caused teams to get a bit more anxious and eager than they normally might during the initial setup of their leadout trains.

As the rain fell, however, the area around the finish line remained dry.

Shortly after the day’s second climb started, Russo and Vercher were swallowed up by the peloton.

A few kilometres later, another median resulted in another crash. Like the first, this one was small, only collecting Visma-Lease a Bike’s Christophe Laporte, who quickly rode off without incident and got back on the peloton a few moments later.

The final few kilometres of the day took a pair of hard right-hand turns, all inside the ever-shifting time barrier (today, it was moved to the 4km mark rather than 3km), after which everyone is awarded the same time. The peloton crossed under the 4k-to-go banner at a blazing sixty-eight km per hour.

Jasper Philipsen’s Alpecin-Deceuninck team charged first, with one-and-a-half km to go. Still, Mark Cavendish’s Astana Qazaqstan squad quickly snuffed out their move, who played the final ten kilometres to absolute perfection. However, Astana’s train was forced to break up a bit as the final metres ticked down, and Cavendish appeared stuck in the middle. However, thirty-four stage wins will teach you how to muscle your way out of a sticky situation and how to freelance, which Cav has been doing better than anyone for years.

With just a bit of daylight, Cavendish left Philipsen’s wheel, charged to the front, took a lead he wouldn’t relinquish, and crossed the line with both hands raised in an image that will live in cycling history forever.

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