Mark Cavendish has missed out on breaking the record for Tour de France stage wins after being denied in a stunning finale on the Champs-Elysees.
Jumbo Visma’s Wout van Aert took the final stage, with Cavendish having to settle for third.
The Deceuninck-Quick step rider equalled Eddy Merckx’s long-standing record of 34 stage wins with victory in Carcassonne earlier in the 2021 Tour.
As expected, Tadej Pogacar held onto the yellow jersey to make it back-to-back Tour de France victories, while Cavendish maintained the green jersey for winning the points classification.
Cavendish, 36, had described matching Merckx’s record as something he “dreamed of as a kid” after his victory in stage 13.
Having also won in stages four, six and 10, he said: “For a lot of the day it didn’t feel like it was going to happen.
“I was so on the limit. You saw that at the end [which was] slightly uphill.
“It is just like my first one [win on the Tour]. It was what I dreamed of as a kid and it is what I dream of now. I have worked so hard for it.”
If equalling Merckx was a childhood fantasy, then Cavendish surpassing the record for stage wins would have been something which was beyond his wildest dreams.
Ahead of the final stage of the 2021 Tour de France, Merckx – who won five Tours de France between 1969 and 1974 – gave his blessing for Cavendish to break his record.
“I hope he wins 35 to stop me being asked about it,” he told the Daily Telegraph of Cavendish. “He deserves to. He is a great champion.”
Meanwhile, Cavendish will also be relieved to have got over the line after his emotions got the better of him in stage 19 on Friday.
The Brit apologised to team mechanics after footage surfaced of him complaining about his bike and storming out of the team bus.
Cavendish was beaten that day in Libourne by Bahrain-Victorious rider Matej Mohoric and took to Instagram to say sorry.
How impressive is Mark Cavendish’s achievement? Comment below.
He wrote: “During a day of the Tour de France, as riders we are put in a perilous situation and I wanted my bike to be perfect, in order to help me stay safe.
“My bike had some problems when I got on it this morning. Despite this, I should not have reacted in the way that I did and not so publicly.
“Although they know how short I can be when I’m stressed, no-one, especially those you care about, deserve to have a voice raised to them.”