Cavendish seeks historic stage win on final Tour
Mark Cavendish betting odds, Tour de France 2023, cycling

Cavendish seeks historic stage win on final Tour

Emotions will be running high for Mark Cavendish over the next three weeks whatever happens on the long road from Bilbao to Paris.

Over the course of the past two decades, the Manxman has earned a reputation as the greatest sprinter cycling has seen, and nowhere has he done more to burnish that reputation than at the Tour de France.

Now, having announced during the Giro d’Italia in May that this will be his last season, Cavendish will line up for the 14th and final time at cycling’s greatest race.

Every stage will seem like a farewell. Fans across the country will get their last chance to see a rider who has been a hero to so many. For Cavendish it is a chance to say goodbye to a race he loves like no other.

“It’s above the sport,” he has said of the Tour. “The consequences of winning and losing that race are so much greater than anything. Everything around it is just bigger. The highs, the lows, it’s so special.”

Inevitably, the focus will be on whether he can use any of the six flat stages to add another victory to his long list, with bwin offering Mark Cavendish betting odds of 2/1 for him to do so.

Should he win, he will claim the Tour’s all-time stage victory record for himself, having matched Eddy Merckx on 34 two years ago. But the record would only underline a point long since made – no other sprinter can rival Cavendish’s achievements.

Rivals like Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan have come and gone during the course of his career, and even among all-time greats like Erik Zabel, Freddy Maertens and Mario Cipollini, no one has half of Cavendish’s Tour stage wins tally.

That Tour performance in 2019 was one of sport’s greatest comebacks.

Manx Missile on a mission

At the end of 2018, Cavendish had given a tearful interview fearing the end of his career but he was given a lifeline by what was then Deceuninck-QuickStep, then got a late, unexpected ticket to the Tour after a knee injury ruled out team-mate Sam Bennett.

He grabbed his chance with both hands, rolling back the years to take four stage victories and the green jersey as winner of the points classification.

There were tears as he drew level with Merckx, the Belgian who was waiting for him at the finish line in Carcassonne, but no Hollywood ending as he was beaten on the final stage in Paris by Wout van Aert.

Left out of the QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl squad last summer, then left without a contract last winter when the B&B Hotels team collapsed, Cavendish has once again faced a difficult road to get on the start line.

The 38-year-old signed a last-minute deal with Astana-Qazaqstan earlier this year, joining a team with no real sprint pedigree in order to remain in the peloton.

There have been teething problems. Astana boast no sort of lead-out train and it has been hard work for Cavendish to try to develop an understanding with his team-mates.

But after a couple of near misses, and with a helping hand from former team-mate Geraint Thomas, Cavendish showed his old class to win the final stage of the Giro in Rome in May, a victory which fuelled belief that he will find a way to claim win number 35 in France.

But whether he does or not, the Tour will bid farewell to one of its greatest protagonists, and one of its greatest ambassadors.

“This race has given me the life I’ve had,” Cavendish said in 2021. “And I’ve given it the life I had.”

Mark Cavendish betting odds

2/1 To win at least one stage

9/2 To win at least two stages

12/1 To win at least three stages

66/1 Points classification winner

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