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Seven chances for Mark Cavendish to become the most prolific stage winner in Tour de France history

Sprinter looking for four more wins to equal Eddy Merckx’s all time Tour de France record

Joseph Delves
30 Jun 2017

With 30 Tour de France stage wins to his name Mark Cavendish is just four victories away from equalling Eddy Merckx’s all time record. This year he comes into his 11th Tour de France with the entire Dimension Data team set up around helping him achieve this feat.

But having only recently returned from illness the Manx sprint specialist remains saturnine about his chances.

'I truly believe that I am the best sprinter on the planet,' Cavendish told The Times.

'Without this illness, I would be going in looking to pass the record this year.'

Aware that he might not be at full power for the three week Grand Tour, Cavendish discussed the impact that losing can have on him and the boost it ca give his rivals.

'The hardest thing for me is sprinting and losing. Not just because it's damaging to my morale, the team's morale, but it's actually good for the other sprinters' morale.

'I could be doing myself more damage going and not winning than not going at all.'

With a bout of glandular fever behind him, if Cavendish does find himself back in form this year’s Tour should present him with plenty of opportunities.

There are seven stages that look likely to be concluded by the type of traditional mass sprint he and his team favour.

Sprint Stages at the 2017 Tour de France

Stage 2, Sunday 2nd July - Düsseldorf - Liège 203.5 km
Stage 4, Tuesday 4th July - Mondorf-les-Bains - Vittel 207.5 km
Stage 6, Thursday 6th July - Vesoul - Troyes 216 km
Stage 7, Friday 7th July - Troyes - Nuits-Saint-Georges 213.5 km
Stage 10, Tuesday 11th July - Périgueux - Bergerac 178 km
Stage 11, Wednesday 12th July - Eymet - Pau 203.5 km
Stage 21, Sunday 23rd July - Montgeron - Paris Champs-Élysées 103 km

With Cavendish’s largest previous haul being six wins back in 2009 he’d need to be on blistering form to match Merckx’s record this year.

Having promised that he’s in for the long haul all the way to the Champs-Élysées, instead Cavendish will be looking to add a couple more to his total, before a final assault on the record in 2018.

When Cavendish surpassed Bernard Hinault’s record of 28 stage victories at the Tour de France the French cycling legend was magnanimous in his praise of the sprinter.

At the time Cavendish expressed his disbelief that he was now being discussed alongside riders like Hinault and Merckx.

'It's good what he has done. I hope he has more than us. That's the goal,' Hinault said at the time.

'Why would he not think like that? It's a goal in a career to say, "I am capable of going in search of this trophy".

'Even if it is not a trophy, these are victories that accumulate one after another. That is the most beautiful thing of all about it.'

Cavendish is now looking to chase down Merckx’s record 34 Tour de France stage wins but the Belgian cyclist was somewhat less impressed.

'There's no point in making comparisons, I won stages because I needed them to win the Tour. It was very different,' Merckx’s told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.