Denmark’s Mads Pedersen won the eighth stage of the Tour de France, a 200-km ride from Libourne on Saturday.
His compatriot Jonas Vingegaard retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
However, Mark Cavendish’s hopes of breaking the record for stage wins at the Tour de France ended in cruel fashion when the Briton crashed out of this year’s race, which he has long said will be his last.
The 38-year-old, who will retire at the end of the year, fell off his bike with 64km left in the eighth stage won by Mads Pedersen, and was taken into an ambulance for checks before his withdrawal was made official by race organisers.
The Astana-Qazaqstan rider was looking to become the only man with 35 stage wins on the world’s greatest cycling race, to beat the record he shares with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, who bagged 34 victories from 1969-75.
On Friday, Cavendish came close to achieving his goal when he took second place in the seventh stage in Bordeaux after suffering a mechanical problem in the final straight.
Cavendish held his right arm after crashing on Saturday, lying down in agony, visibly in pain and with blood on his elbow.
He then held his head in disbelief as he climbed into the race ambulance where doctors strapped up his shoulder.
His withdrawal was effectively confirmed a few minutes later when the ambulance’s door was slammed shut, bringing a close to a remarkable Tour de France adventure that started in 2007.
He was taken to a hospital in Perigueux, a team representative told Reuters.
“Second yesterday, and today have this happen to Mark it’s hard because we know his shape’s here, we know he has the legs,” Mark Renshaw, who was Cavendish’s lead-out man from 2009-2011 and in 2016 and joined Astana-Qazaqstan as a sprint adviser, told reporters.
“I won’t lie, I cried. Everyone in the team is hurting.”
Cavendish, who started as a self-described “boy who wanted to fight the world”, won his first stage in Chateauroux in 2008, bursting into the limelight as he claimed another three victories that year.
It was the first of nine Tours in which Cavendish bagged at least a stage win.
LOVE FOR THE TOUR
Cavendish has repeatedly proclaimed his love for a race that gave him the best moments of his career with two green jerseys for the winner of the points classification, but also the most heartbreaking one on Saturday.
While he was beaten three times in bunch sprints by Belgian Jasper Philipsen, Cavendish clocked the fastest speed in two of them, showing his 14th and last Tour would not just be an easy farewell ride.
It ended in the most brutal fashion in a crash that nobody saw coming in the haze of a sunny afternoon before the expected final sprint on a mostly flat stage.
Cavendish’s withdrawal comes on the day Philipsen was beaten for the first time in a sprint this year, as the Belgian took second place behind former world champion Pedersen.
Belgian Wout van Aert finished third.
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey with a 25-second advantage over Tadej Pogacar with Australian Jai Hindley in third place, 1:34 off the pace.
Briton Simon Yates crashed some 5.5km from the finish line and lost 47 seconds, slipping down to sixth overall from fourth with his twin brother Adam now fifth.
Sunday’s ninth stage ending with the ascent to the Puy de Dome - for the first time since 1988 - will start from Saint Leonard de Noblat, where former France great Raymond Poulidor was buried in 2019.
Poulidor’s grandson Mathieu van der Poel, who won a stage on the Tour and wore the yellow jersey in 2021 and has been one of the best classics riders in recent years, said it would be an “emotional” stage, having spent summer holidays in the small central France town.
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