Mark Cavendish sprints to ‘just another win on the Tour de France’ to match Eddy Merckx’s stage record

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Mark Cavendish - Mark Cavendish sprints to 'just another win on the Tour de France ' to match Eddy Merckx's stage record - REUTERS

Mark Cavendish – Mark Cavendish sprints to ‘just another win on the Tour de France ‘ to match Eddy Merckx’s stage record – REUTERS

It was not the prettiest victory of his career, a chaotic field sprint in which he was almost beaten by his own team-mate Michael Mørkøv. But it hardly mattered. Thirteen years to the day after he won his first Tour de France stage in Châteauroux on July 9 2008, Mark Cavendish claimed his 34th in Carcassonne on Friday, to draw level, finally, with the great Belgian Eddy Merckx in the all-time winners’ list. An itch that has been niggling him for at least a decade, ever since he started racking up multiple stages per year and it became a statistical possibility and the media cottoned on to it, has finally been scratched.

It is an extraordinary achievement, although not for the reasons many believe it to be. As Cavendish was quick to point out afterwards, as he has always been quick to point out whenever this subject has been brought up, there is, and will never be, any comparison with Merckx.

The greatest all-round cyclist the sport has ever known won well over 500 races in his career, including 11 grand tours. Merckx won sprint stages, mountain stages, time trials, one-day races, the Hour Record. Not for nothing was he known as The Cannibal (although the Belgian was also involved in three doping scandals). Cavendish, by contrast, is very much a specialist. The greatest sprinter the sport has ever known. We can now say that without hesitation.

No, the reason this record matters is because of what it says about Cavendish the man; about his drive and determination to come back after nearly falling into the abyss a couple of years ago. And about the Tour and its power to transcend cycling and to attract new followers.

Cavendish has always been one of the most intelligent and insightful sportsmen in the country, and he gave a particularly brilliant press conference in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s win in which he expanded on some of these themes. He conceded that the record was largely irrelevant, like comparing apples and oranges. But he added that if it helped inspire the next generation of boys and girls into cycling, then it would be worth something.

“I don’t think I can ever be compared to Eddy Merckx, the greatest male road cyclist of all time,” Cavendish said, graciously, in contrast to Merckx who had been rather mealy-mouthed when asked earlier for his thoughts on the Manxman potentially drawing level with him. “But I think to equal the number of stage victories… I think for someone who doesn’t follow cycling a lot it’s something they can put into perspective.

“If it can inspire them to get on a bike, that’s the biggest thing I can take from it I guess.”

Cavendish really has been note-perfect in this race, on and off the bike. Right down to the fact that he took time to congratulate Marianne Vos, who won her 30th stage of the women’s Giro d’Italia on Thursday, before the stage start in Nimes, labelling the Dutchwoman an inspiration.

After another long hot day in the saddle – 220km in which his QuickStep team had to battle throughout to control proceedings, their job made harder when they lost Tim ‘The Tractor’ Declerq to a mass pileup with 65km remaining which also accounted for Britain’s Tokyo-bound Simon Yates – Cavendish had the clarity of mind to state that Merckx was the best ‘male’ cyclist of all time, adding that he hoped to inspire both boys and girls to ride the Tour de France and the Tour de France Femmes in he future.

He has been winning more friends in the twilight of his career than he ever had in his pomp.

Actually, he was fascinating on that subject, too, and about his sometimes prickly relationship with the media. “I’m not going to lie, sometimes I think I’ve been personally picked on,” he said when asked about it. “But on the same level I think I’ve also been a prick you know? But that’s what happens when you’re young. I think for many years I suffered the consequence of being brash and young without an education compared to the media I guess.

“As you get older, you get a family, responsibilities, you learn to behave. Unfortunately some people didn’t want to let go of what I was like when I was young, even though I had changed. And it maybe took [some] time away for me to get that chip off my shoulder and for the press to get that chip off their shoulder. And as you can see I’m a grown up now I’m 36, I’m not that 20 year old who wanted to fight the world you know?”

There is no doubt he is being celebrated now – and rightly so. His comeback at this race actually deserves far more praise than it is getting. It is Cavendish’s misfortune that he is doing this at the same time as England are potentially making history at Euro 2020. He could probably win Sunday’s mountain stage in Andorra to go one clear of Merckx and it would still only be a footnote on Monday morning.

Again, though, he struck just the right note when asked about that. “I’m proud to say I’ve got some friends who are playing for the country,” said the 36 year-old, who shares an agent with Jordan Henderson, when asked whether he would be supporting England on Sunday. “It’s been great to see England doing so well. My room-mate [Mattia Cattaneo] is Italian, though, so I think Sunday night is going to be a bit tense. It will be a nice day, finishing this block of racing before the rest day [on Monday], we can kind of enjoy it and for sure the whole country is behind the football you know.”

There are some big days to come in the Pyrenees but Cavendish is flying. He may have collapsed to the floor in a messy heap in Carcassonne on Friday, clearly spent both physically ad emotionally, but it would be a major surprise now if he did not battle through these next few days in an attempt to contest another sprint in Libourne next Friday. And then the moment it feels as if it’s all building towards: a potentially historic return to the Champs-Elysees a week on Sunday.

04:46 PM

Leaders of individual classifications

Apologies for the delayed service. Unsurprisingly there were no major changes in any of the classifications. However, on the day Mark Cavendish reached the magic number, the Manxman was also tightened his grip on the green jersey after increasing his lead over Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) to 101 points.

There are two more stages to go before the second rest day in this year’s race, both in either the hills or high mountains, before another three days in the Pyrenees that Cavendish will have to navigate if he is to put himself in a position to set a new record.

04:14 PM

Merckx: ‘Let’s not forget the five yellow jerseys I’ve got’

Eddy Merckx, who remains the greatest male cyclist of all time, has said he would ‘not lose any sleep’ over Mark Cavendish equalling one of his many records. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of today’s stage, the Belgian said: “There’ll be no problem if Cavendish equals my record. I won’t lose any sleep over it. If he does it, I’ll congratulate him because it’s not easy to win 34 sprints.

Eddy Merckx and Mark Cavendish Eddy Merckx and Mark Cavendish 

Eddy Merckx and Mark Cavendish

“Of course there’s a difference between us,” Merckx, 76, was quick to remind people. “I won 34 Tour stages by winning sprints, in the mountains, in time trials and going on the attack on the descents. Let’s not forget the five yellow jerseys I’ve got at home plus the 96 days I wore it. Does that not seem much?

“Naturally I’m not trying to play down what he’s achieved. Also because he’s been through a difficult time and has fallen in love with cycling again. That’s a great message for young people in the sport.”

03:41 PM

British Cycling hail Cavendish’s remarkable achievement

Stephen Park, performance director for British Cycling, said: “What a fantastic achievement by Mark Cavendish to win his 34th stage of the Tour de France, equalling the record set by the legendary Eddy Merckx.

“It is testament to not only Mark’s sporting ability, but to his tenacity and resilience, all of which play a part in his success.

“The Great Britain Cycling Team has a well-established pathway programme with a history of producing cycling greats, of which Mark is a proud graduate. Our pathway team are committed to laying the groundwork for cyclists in the early stages of their development and equipping them with the skills they need both on and off the bike. We have seen Mark show real pride in the Great Britain Cycling Team jersey as well as excelling in the most prestigious of the Grand Tours, and he continues to serve as an inspiration to those riders who dream of emulating his success.

“On behalf of everyone on the Great Britain Cycling Team, I would like to congratulate Mark on this latest milestone achievement and wish him the very best of luck for the rest of Le Tour.”

03:37 PM

Cavendish: ‘It’s just another win on the Tour de France’

An exhausted Mark Cavendish, speaking with Seb Piquet, says: “I’m so dead. 220km in that heat. In that wind. I went deep there, I went so deep there. The boys were incredible. Can’t believe it.”

Mark Cavendish - EPAMark Cavendish - EPA

Mark Cavendish – EPA

Asked whether he had realised the enormity of what he has done, specifically with regards to matching Eddy Merckx’s stage win record, he says: “I haven’t realised it. It’s still just another win on the Tour de France. It’s like my first one. I’ve won a stage of the Tour de France. It’s what I dreamed of as a kid and it’s what I dream of now.

“I’ve worked so hard for it. We’ve seen such a growth, especially in the UK, of cycling since I’ve started racing here at the Tour de France. If anyone of my wins can inspire the kids to ride the Tour de France or the Tour de France Femmes from next year when they grow up, that’s what means the most to me I think.”

03:23 PM

Cavendish wins stage 13 at the Tour!

Mark Cavendish has won a fourth stage at this year’s race, the 34th Tour de France of his long and glittering career that sees the Briton equal the long-standing record set by Eddy Merckx back in 1974.

having started the dayt with yet another tactical masterclass on the road, the blue train of Deceuninck-Quick Step were almost derailed by a huge pile-up that saw their diesel-deluxe Tim Declercq crash heavily. The Belgian team, however, responded brilliantly with world champion Julian Alaphilippe assuming responsibility, with the Frenchman dictating things on the front of the peloton while Cavendish chased back on having taken a late bike change.

Davide Ballerini  and Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGESDavide Ballerini  and Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES

Davide Ballerini and Mark Cavendish – GETTY IMAGES

Having finally reached Carcassonne on what was a tight, technical and twisty finale it was absolutely key for Cavendish to be delivered to the line by a team able to ride hard, and ride on the front. Fortunately for Cavendish, Deceuninck-Quick Step did just that, although it was far from straightforward.

In fact it was a scrappy finale. After being shepherded to the final straight by Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov, the man who is regarded as the best lead-out rider in the world right now, took over before Cavendish, just as he has done so many times – 33 to be precise – finished the job off. Quite remarkably Morkov was runner-up while Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) was third.

03:22 PM

1.5km to go

Kasper Asgreen hits the front, followed by Davide Ballerini, Michael Morkov and Mark Cavendish.

03:21 PM

2km to go

Sonny Colbrelli and Wout van Aert are up near the front, but Cavendish is in the boxseat for now.

03:20 PM

3km to go

Mark Cavendish has three team-mates – Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov – in front of him.

03:19 PM

4.5km to go

We are within the 4.5km marker, so the general classification riders can ease off a little … but they are not easing off.

03:18 PM

5km to go

Sonny Colbrelli who has yet to win a Tour de France stage is riding at around fourth wheel, Deceuninck-Quick Step have three riders – presumably Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov – protecting Mark Cavendish, just off the shoulders of the first three or four riders.

03:16 PM

7km to go

EF Education-Nippo take over on the front, surely protecting Rigoberto Uran who started the day second on general classification.

03:15 PM

8km to

Ag2r-Citroën have three riders up near the front. Are they thinking about Oliver Naesen, or protecting Ben O’Connor’s fifth place on general classification?

03:14 PM

9km to go

Lots of little bumps as riders look to get a decent position., Omar Fraile gestures to Mark Cavendish as if to let him know he is coming through. Tense times for the riders, their teams and fans back home.

03:12 PM

10km to go

Mark Cavendish swings to his right, riding over the top to get onto fourth wheel. Race craft, that.

03:11 PM

11km to go

Kasper Asgreen is doing his best to ride up near the front, but have Deceuninck-Quick Step lost control? Everybody is battling for position near the front – including Wout van Aert who cheekily rolls off the front.

03:09 PM

13.5km to go

Quite a bit of road furniture, some of which is not being marshalled. Fortunately riders are looking out for each other, but it is a concern.

03:07 PM

15km to go

EF Education-Nippo, Movistar, Ag2r-Citroën are all getting involved at the front as the pace winds up a little further. Julian Alaphilippe, by the way, peels off a few minutes ago having put in a decent shift.

03:06 PM

17km to go

Ineos Grenadiers and Deceuninck-Quick Step are riding hard on the front. A few splits have appeared in the peloton, perhaps caused by crosswinds.

03:04 PM

18km to go

Quentin Pacher’s time in the sun is over and the peloton is all back as one. Ineos Grenadiers moved to the front, drilling it as they fly through a wide and exposed section.

02:56 PM

25km to go

Nervous time in the peloton, but Deceuninck-Quick Step are again in control on the front while Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) hangs out in front, hanging on by just 28sec.

02:49 PM

28km to go

Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) leads the stage, 1min 19sec ahead of the peloton, while Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) is stuck somewhere in no man’s land. World champion Julian Alaphilippe has been riding on the front of the bunch, looking to control things for Deceuninck-Quick Step. Mark Cavendish managed to get back up to his team-mates relatively easily and is now back where he wants to be – around sixths or seventh wheel in the bunch.

02:39 PM

36.5km to go

Mark Cavendish stops at the roadside before taking a quick bike change from his Deceuninck-Quick Step team car. Surprisingly sprightly on his toes, the hugely experienced directeur sportif Tom Steels jumps out of the car before handing over the new bike and getting Cavendish back on his way.

02:34 PM

40km to go

Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) has shimmied his way off up the road and the 29-year-old has managed to gain 30sec on the peloton.

02:31 PM

Yates abandons the Tour

Simon Yates has become the latest to abandon which will come as a huge blow to the Briton and his BikeExchange team. The Tour goes to Andorra this weekend where the 2018 Vuelta a España champion now resides.

02:30 PM

For one day only | The 3km rule becomes the 4.5km rule

Due to the twisty and technical final few kilometres of today’s stage that has been deemed dangerous, the 3km rule has been extended out to 4.5km in the hope that the general classification riders do not get tangled up with the sprinters once the pace winds up in Carcassonne – and it will wind up to a very fast pace.

02:27 PM

45km to go

The fallen are, one by one, getting back on. Not sure if he went down, but Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) who was riding through the cars at the rear of the bunch manages to give the TV cameras a little wave as he speeds by. Deceuninck-Quick Step’s boys in blue return to the front along with Alpecin-Fenix and UAE Team Emirates.

02:17 PM

51.5km to go | Back to square one

With the breakaway having been absorbed by the peloton, the composition on the front has changed entirely. Deceuninck-Quick Step are no longer in control and a number of teams are vying from position on the at the head of the pack. Nerves will be coursing through the pack now.

02:14 PM

Kluge abandons the Tour

Roger Kluge (Lotto-Soudal) has quit the Tour, not sure if he was involved in that pile-up but hopefully he is not injured can still head off to the Olympics where he is due to race on the track for Germany. The breakaway is moments away from being swallowed up. The script for this stage may have been ripped up following that crash.

02:11 PM

55km to go

Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour lead the stage by just 27sec. A flurry of attacks have gone off the front of the peloton, but it appears to have calmed down briefly, a peace accord has, perhaps, been reached while those that crashed – and there were many – chase back on. Absolute chaos as we have come to expect at this year’s race.

Omer Goldstein and  Pierre Latour  - GETTY IMAGESOmer Goldstein and  Pierre Latour  - GETTY IMAGES

Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour – GETTY IMAGES

02:07 PM

58km to go

Simon Yates is one of those that crashed, the BikeExchange rider has just remounted and will be chasing back on fairly soon. Deceuninck-Quick Step’s day may be unravelling here, the chaos and action perhaps sparked by that initial attack from Philippe Gilbert.

02:04 PM

Massive crash in the peloton!

Tim Declercq is down and is looking in pain. Rafal Majka, Nacer Bouhanni, Wout Poels and Sergio Higuita also went down. A number of others also went down, flying off the edge of the road. Riders are clambering up out of the trees as bikes are being handed up. Bizarre scenes. Once I can work out who was involved I will relay that information to you – there’s lots of speculation about who crashed, but we prefer to deal in facts.

01:58 PM

Gilbert launches a grenade!

Former Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) attacks the peloton in an attempt to shake things up a little. Kasper Asgreen was quick to the move and the Tour of Flanders champion chases the veteran Belgian down. Simultaneous to Gilbert’s move, the leading trio have their own little shakedown and, as it stands, Sean Bennett appears to have lost out.

01:50 PM

70km to go

Tim Declercq, the rider nicknamed El Tractor, pulls hard on the front for Deceuninck-Quick Step and the deficit on the breakaway has dropped to 1min 20sec. Nobody in the blue train of Deceuninck-Quick Step will be wanting to catch Sean Bennett Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour just yet – they will be happy enough for the trio to hang out for another 60 kilometres before attempting to set up Mark Cavendish with yet another textbook leadout as we saw in Valence on Tuesday when the Manxman won the 33rd Tour stage of his career.

01:43 PM

75km to go

Up and down, the road undulates with each kilometre putting further climbing metres into these riders legs. Mark Cavendish has been riding in the bunch on the wheel of Michael Morkov, the best lead-out rider in the world right now, but will the great Dane be delivering the Manx Missile to glory in Carcassonne this afternoon?

Mark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGESMark Cavendish - GETTY IMAGES

Mark Cavendish – GETTY IMAGES

The leading trio’s advantage has dropped to 1min 47sec.

01:29 PM

85km to go

Mark Cavendish, resplendent on his emerald green jersey, is riding at around ninth wheel in the peloton, tucked in behind his entire Deceuninck-Quick Step team who are working tirelessly for the British sprinter here today. Sat on the front the team are not only staying out of harm’s way, but also perfectly positioned should any crosswinds whip up a storm. There has been some talk of the crosswinds blowing in and as a result the peloton is on high alert.

01:23 PM

‘Agony and ecstasy of the most dramatic Tour I have known’

Writing exclusively for Telegraph Sport, Mark Cavendish explained earlier this week how this Tour de France, like no other he has race in, packed more drama into the opening nine days than you normally get in three weeks. It really is a wonderful read and a great insight into the mind of the man who could win a mind-blowing 34th Tour de France stage win later on today. Read his column right here.

01:14 PM

95km to go | Friends reunited

Petr Vakov has been riding on the front for Alpecin-Fenix team-mate Jasper Philipsen, but it has not gone unnoticed that the former Czech Republic champion used to ride for another Belgian team. The 28-year-old was at Deceuninck-Quick Step during Mark Cavendish’s first stint with Patrick Lefevere’s squad.

Tour de France spectators -  REUTERSTour de France spectators -  REUTERS

Tour de France spectators – REUTERS

01:05 PM

100km to go

Not too many changes at the higher end of the points classification, although Sonny Colbrelli has gone level with Jasper Philipsen on 151 points after the Italian increased his tally by 13 having won the sprint from the bunch. Mark Cavendish’s lead was reduced by three points, though one suspects he will not be too concerned by that. Back on the road the breakaway’s advantage has dropped to 2min 45sec.

12:56 PM

Those intermediate results in full . . .

12:49 PM

Colbrelli is the best of the rest

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) wins the second sprint of the day, the Italian national champion beating Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) while Mark Cavendish was fifth, but the Briton didn’t appear too concerned. With a possible stage win up for grabs – a record-equalling 34th in case you had not heard? – the Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter will not have wanted top burn up too much energy over a handful of points when he could collect 50 for the win in Carcassonne. Full details to follow shortly.

12:43 PM

Goldstein wins intermediate sprint

Sean Bennett winds the pace up from some distance out from the intermediate sprint in Fontès, but the young American did too much work too soon and was overhauled by Omer Goldstein who, incidentally, is the first rider from Israel to ever ride in a breakaway at the Tour de France. Pierre Latour takes third on the slight uphill ramp and the bunch will follow in a couple of minutes.

Sean Bennett (left to right), Pierre Latour and Omer Goldstein - GETTY IMAGESSean Bennett (left to right), Pierre Latour and Omer Goldstein - GETTY IMAGES

Sean Bennett (left to right), Pierre Latour and Omer Goldstein – GETTY IMAGES

12:30 PM

125km to go

Not too far away from the day’s intermediate sprint in Fontès. It will be interesting to see who challenges for the points and see if anybody uses the key point in this stage as a launchpad for any attacks. I’m guessing they will not, but who knows?

Mark Cavendish has his entire team protecting him at the head of the peloton - GETTY IMAGESMark Cavendish has his entire team protecting him at the head of the peloton - GETTY IMAGES

Mark Cavendish has his entire team protecting him at the head of the peloton – GETTY IMAGES

12:20 PM

130km to go

The breakaway’s advantage has dropped to below three minutes.

Tadej Pogacar - REUTERS / GETTY IMAGESTadej Pogacar - REUTERS / GETTY IMAGES

Tadej Pogacar – REUTERS / GETTY IMAGES

12:06 PM

140km to go

Another 10km clicked off, another couple of roundabouts navigated by the peloton safely. By the way, there are a staggering number of roundabouts – 97 to be precise – in today’s stage. The breakaway’s lead has dropped slightly to 3min 15sec as Deceuninck-Quick Step share the work on front of the peloton with Alpecin-Fenix.

11:55 AM

150km to go

All fairly calm out on the road right now. The leading trio of Sean Bennett, Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour have an advantage of 3min 40sec on the peloton which is currently tapping away in a long strung out line. A few riders have slight bulges in the rear of their jerseys which will be where they have stuffed ice packs in order to cool down in the heat. Others are swigging away from their bidons filled with energy drinks or just plain old water.

SOIGNEURS - GETTY IMAGESSOIGNEURS - GETTY IMAGES

SOIGNEURS – GETTY IMAGES

11:41 AM

Beautiful blue skies down in the south

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - GETTY IMAGESTour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - GETTY IMAGES

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates – GETTY IMAGES

11:34 AM

168.4km to go | Latour cashes in

Sean Bennett, the 25-year-old who is making his Tour de France debut this year, attacked from the breakaway off in pursuit of the single point atop the côte du Pic Saint-Loup, but the American was closed down by Pierre Latour. The Frenchman who arrived as TotalÉnergies’ main general classification challenger, overhauled Bennett before adding to his tally of points while also trousering a cash bonus of €300.

11:20 AM

172km to go

Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash), Omer Goldstein (ISN) and Pierre Latour (TotalÉnergies) are onto the only categorised climb of the day, the côte du Pic Saint-Loup which is

5.6km long with an average gradient of 3.60%. There is just one point available on the summit in the mountains classification. The best placed breakaway rider in that competition is Latour who started the day in 22nd place with five points and so should he add a point to his tally today he will finish the day… in 22nd place with six points.

11:07 AM

180km to go

Once again, Deceuninck-Quick Step have fanned across the road in an attempt to block any further attacks. The Belgian squad, which has the maillot vert of Mark Cavendish riding on the frontline, is getting some help from Alpecin-Fenix and UAE Team Emirates. Alpecin-Fenix, of course, have sprinter Jasper Philipsen within their ranks and will be hoping their Belgian can challenge for the line honours later on this afternoon, while UAE Team Emirates, the team of overall leader Tadej Pogacar, will be more than happy for a calm couple of hours ahead of a couple of days in the hills / mountains before Monday’s rest day.

11:00 AM

185km to go

Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has clipped off in pursuit of that three-man break, but he may have left it too late. Sean Bennett, Omer Goldstein and Pierre Latour are riding at full pelt and have 2min 15sec on the peloton. A number of riders from DSM, Trek-Segafredo have attacked off the front of the bunch but Deceuninck-Quick Step straight away put a man onto them.

10:51 AM

192km to go

Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash), Omer Goldstein (ISN) and Pierre Latour (TotalÉnergies) have attacked and Deceuninck-Quick Step appear to have blocked the front of the bunch at the very point where the road narrowed. That could be the breakaway of the day. Deceuninck-Quick Step played that perfectly, an absolute tactical masterclass in race management and using their numbers.

10:49 AM

195km to go

Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-Citroën) has been forced to stop and take a new wheel, the former Belgian national champion having picked up a rear puncture. That trio has been reined back in, and now plenty of others are loitering near the front waiting for the day’s move to go. Deceuninck-Quick Step, however, are monitoring everything very closely. Interesting to not that Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has been sniffing around, but he will not be given an inch by Mark Cavendish’s team – the Belgian is a favourite for this stage.

10:41 AM

200km to go

Max Walscheid (Qhubeka-NextHash) is the next to attack and the German is joined by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), the 2019 world champion, and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux). Apparently the riders are currently going into a block headwind. Deceuninck-Quick Step and Mark Cavendish, one assumes, would be delighted if this group were to hang out the front all day. But one suspects others may want to bridge over, or the breakaway’s composition may completely change in a short while.

10:34 AM

205km to go

Next to clip off the front is Nils Eekhoff (DSM), but the Dutch neo-pro is marked out by Marco Haller (Bahrain Victorious).

10:31 AM

Deceuninck-Quick Step on the front

Interesting to note that from the start Deceuninck-Quick Step riders Kasper Asgreen and Tim Declercq have ridden on the front. One assumes they are not looking to get into a breakaway, but instead setting such a pace that it is difficult for one to form just yet – ideally a break will go, but the team of Mark Cavendish will want to monitor who goes in it and manage the size of it.

10:29 AM

210km to go

A flurry of riders have put in a few little efforts on the front, and there are some clear signs of crosswinds – small groups have been riding in echelons leading to a few splits – but as yet nothing has stuck.

10:19 AM

And they’re off!

Having navigated their way safely through the neutralised section of road out from the centre of Nîmes, race director Christian Prudhomme has popped his head out of the shiny red Skoda that sits at the head of each stage and dropped the flag to signify that this stage is very much on. As is mandatory, all of the classification leaders started the short ride tucked in behind Prudhomme, while a handful of others shunted themselves towards the front. Some may be thinking of getting into a breakaway, while others will simply be wanting to stay out of harm’s way either thinking about themselves or their team’s protected rider. Today, as you will know, is a very long stage and with 1,960 metres in vertical elevation is far from being panflat. Running as it does parallel to the coastline, there is a threat of crosswinds which may be key to how the day plays out.

Incidentally, Michael Gogl was a non-starter today making the Austrian the third Qhubeka-NextHash rider to leave this year’s Tour de France after Nicholas Dlamini was eliminated after stage nine and Victor Campenaerts abandoned on the slopes of Mont Ventoux.

09:45 AM

Bonjour!

Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 12 at the Tour de France, the 219.9-kilometre run from Nîmes to Carcassonne.

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - EPATour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - EPA

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates – EPA

As transitional stages go Thursday’s was a relatively satisfactory one, especially for Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) who clipped off the front of a small three-man group before going solo all the way to the line in Nîmes. Whether or not today’s stage is won by a breakaway rider or comes down to a bunch sprint remains to be seen.

Nils Politt – Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - AFPNils Politt – Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - AFP

Nils Politt – Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates – AFP

With the threat of crosswinds teams hoping to contest the stage win and those challenging in the general classification will be minded to have their diesel engines as near the the front of the bunch as is humanly possible. Likewise, protected riders will need to be shielded from any dangers if they are to finish their jobs off.

Here’s a quick reminder of who will be wearing what as respective leader in each of the four main classifications – in other words those that have jerseys. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) will be dressed in the maillot jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, for the fifth consecutive day with a healthy margin of over five minutes.

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step), who many are tipping to win today’s stage, is still in the maillot vert, the green jersey, as leader in the points classification.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) will again be dressed in the maillot à pois, or polka dot jersey, as leader in the mountains classification. With just one category four featuring today all he needs to do is complete the stage within the time cut to retain it.

As overall leader of the race, Pogacar also tops the best young rider classification, although Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the Slovenian’s maillot blanc, the white jersey, as second best.

And for anybody that missed Politt’s finest hour with his solo ride into Nîmes on Thursday, you can relive the highlights here . . .

So, what’s on today’s menu?

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 profile - Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - ASOTour de France 2021, stage 13 profile - Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates - ASO

Tour de France 2021, stage 13 profile – Tour de France 2021, stage 13 – live updates – ASO

Here’s a look at the all-important numbers from that one climb . . .

But what about those who only have eyes for the green jersey?