Mark Cavendish in agony as he exits the last Tour de France

Mark Cavendish crash - Mark Cavendish abandons Tour de France with suspected broken collarbone

Cavendish fell in freefall towards the back of the peloton – AFP/THOMAS SAMSON

Mark Cavendish is absent from his last Tour de France, abandoning the race after a heavy fall during the eighth stage.

A day after the Manxman came within meters of a career-record 35th Tour stage victory in Bordeaux, he was forced out of the race after hitting the bridge with around 60km remaining on the stage 201 km from Libourne to Limoges.

A wheelie in the peloton forced Cavendish down and he sat down holding his shoulder before being helped into an ambulance, his anguish at being kicked out of his final Lap in such circumstances evident.

Mark Cavendish accident

Television footage showed Cavendish removed from the race by doctors

It means Cavendish, who announced in May that he would retire at the end of the season, will end his career streak with Eddy Merckx on 34 Tour stage wins.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Cavendish was awfully close to breaking the record, blasting Jasper Philipsen in the sprint to the line in Bordeaux, only to have his gears jump as he tried to apply full power.

Mark Cavendish abandons Tour de France - Mark Cavendish abandons his last Tour de France after a crash

Cavendish, centre, had tried to break Eddy Merckx’s record for stage wins – Shutterstock/MARTIN DIVISEK

Although extremely disappointed after that one-on-one with Philipsen, Cavendish also spoke optimistically about his form and the cohesiveness of his Astana-Qazaqstan team’s header, which had learned on the job in this Tour.

When asked if he felt capable of winning a stage, he replied: “I think so.”

However, it wasn’t just the record breaking opportunity that Cavendish lost with Saturday’s crash. He has had a long love affair with the Tour and could be seen throughout opening week taking the opportunity to soak up the admiration of roadside fans and enjoy a sort of lap of honour.

In recent years, when it comes to contract negotiations, Cavendish has fought to end his storied career on his terms, and the timing of his retirement announcement in May was done with the Tour in mind.

When he announced in May that the 2023 season would be his last in the sport, Cavendish said he had “lived the dream” during an extraordinary 20-year professional career.

The Manx rider, 38, planned to retire in order to spend more time with his family and less time on the road, although he would certainly continue to work in the sport.

During his retirement press conference, he added: “Cycling has been my life for over 25 years. I lived an absolute dream. Cycling has given me the opportunity to see the world and meet amazing people, whom I am proud to call many friends.

“I love the sport more than you can even imagine and I can’t see myself straying too far from it, that’s for sure.”

Cavendish won his first Tour de France stages in 2008 and claimed four victories in the 2021 edition, equaling Merckx’s record with his victory on stage 13 that year in Carcassonne. It was his performance in this race that proved he could still compete with younger rivals. This belief was confirmed earlier this year at the Giro d’Italia where Cavendish won the final stage.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then get a year for just $9 with our exclusive US offer.

Leave a Comment