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Speed demons: the best sprinters in Tour de France history

Sam Challis
5 Jul 2016

We take a look back at five of the most successful sprinters at the Tour de France.

Andre Darrigade

Between the mid-fifties and mid-sixties, the Frenchman Andre Darrigade proved himself to be one of the most talented sprinters and prolific Tour stage winners of all time, notching up 20 wins and 12 second places during his career, as well as winning the first stage a record 5 times. Darrigade's tally also earned him the overall in the points competition in 1959 and 1961.

Freddy Maertens 

Maertens is one of only two men (the other being Frenchman Charles Pélissier) to win eight stages in a single Tour, a feat he achieved in the 1976 edition of the race. Although he only rode three Tours, five stage wins in 1978 and two in 1981 were enough to win him the green jersey at every attempt, ensuring he is remembered as an all-time great.

Erik Zabel 

While he was less explosive and powerful than Maertens, German sprinter Erik Zabel was more consistent and complete – his 12 stage wins across 14 Tours were enough to earn him the green jersey on six consecutive occasions between 1996 and 2001. Peter Sagan is looking set to challenge this record – he will be in the hunt for a fifth straight green jersey this year.

Mario Cipollini 

The controversial Italian rode eight Tours between 1992 and 2004 but never saw Paris. In fact, he never went further than the 11th stage, typically abandoning as soon as the race reached the mountains. Despite never racing much past the first week, his ruthless riding style and huge sprinting talent saw him claim 12 stage wins, including four straight victories in 1999.

Mark Cavendish 

The British rider’s extraordinary success from 2008 to 2012, in which he claimed 23 stage wins, earned him the nickname the Manx Missile. His small stature means he doesn’t generate the most power, but his crouched style makes him highly aerodynamic. His 28 victories place him third on the all-time list for most wins, level with Bernard Hinault and just behind Eddy Merckx (34).


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