Mark Cavendish equals Eddy Merckx's 34 stage wins at the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish equalled the all-time tally of Tour de France stage wins when he sped over the finish line at Carcassonne on Friday for a landmark 34th victory in the race. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finished safely in the bunch

Mark Cavendish equals Eddy Merck's 34 stage wins at the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish equalled the all-time tally of Tour de France stage wins when he sped over the finish line at Carcassonne on Friday for a landmark 34th victory in the race.

It was Cavendish's fourth win on the 2021 edition and sees the British sprinter equal Eddy Merckx's 46-year-old record.

The medieval Carcassonne citadel proved the perfect backdrop for Cavendish, who is guaranteed a rapturous reception on the Champs Elysees in Paris when the Tour winds up on July 18.

Cavendish had until Friday steadfastly refused to hype the record due to his reverence for the great Belgian Merckx, who also won the Tour de France five times.

"It's just another win on the Tour de France," he said shortly after his narrow win.

"I can't be compared to him," said the Briton who has two more flat stages in which to actually beat the record.

"Eddy Merckx's is the greatest rider of all time, and he will remain so," said Cavendish.

"My wins have all been in sprints," he said.

"But if any one of my wins can inspire kids growing up, that's what I most want," said the Deceuninck rider who was led toward the line by a powerful lead out from his teammates.

Cavendish appeared to shoulder charge a fellow rider on the run in and mentioned it at the line.

"I have a problem because I have narrow shoulders and if I lean into someone it looks like I'm head-butting, the commissaires came to speak to me about it on the first sprint (of the race)," he explained.

Tadej Pogacar retained the yellow jersey on Friday, and has a wide margin of five minutes to defend.

"I felt good on the day," said the Slovenian who was swift to praise the green jersey.

"I watched him as a kid, sprinting like Rocketman, all respect to him." said the 22-year-old.

Unlikely Comeback

The feat is all the more remarkable considering Cavendish's career looked compromised in December, teamless, without a Tour de France win in five years, and struggling to put a long bout of the tiring Epstein Barr virus behind him.

Team-less at the end of last season Cavendish was taken 'home' to Deceuninck Quick-Step, who call themselves 'the Wolfpack', by maverick Belgian team boss Patrick Lefevere, a larger-than-life character Cavendish has always trusted and believed in.

Lefevere sent Cavendish to the level two Tour of Turkey in April and when he won four stages there, the foundation stone for a return to the top had been laid.

Cavendish admitted that he hadn't always had the best public image after hitting the big time in 2008.

"I'm a grown man now, I'm not a 20-year-old boy who wants to fight the world anymore," he said.

"I'm not gonna lie," said Cavendish, admitting he had been belligerent in the past.

"That's what happens when you're young. For many years I suffered the consequences of being brash and young, without an education how to deal with the media," he said.

Cavendish said the public along the roadside had been great this year, and he had missed that while he was away.

"They were generous with love and support," he said of the fans.

Simon Yates out after Crash

British Olympic hope Simon Yates pulled out of the Tour de France after a nasty mass-fall caused by gravel earlier on the stage.

Yates of BikeExchange looked dazed and badly grazed and was one of the last men to remount and try and ride off his knock, but the British Olympic road-race hope was in too much difficulty and withdrew within 10 minutes of the accident.

The fall was caused by gravel on a corner with Geraint Thomas also hitting the tarmac, with others taking a frightening roll down a grassy ravine that made way to a deep drop into a river.

Lotto's German rider Roger Kluger was so badly grazed in the mass fall he also had to pull out while other riders who had tumbled into the grassy ravine struggled to clamber back up with their bikes.

The 2021 edition of the Tour has been blighted with falls with stage 1 hit by a sensational spectator-caused mass pile up and stage 3 hit by a series of nasty tumbles.

Stage 13 was a 220km run from Roman arena town Nimes to the citadel of Carcassonne run through Chinon vineyards and several of the fallers had formed a grupetto of ragged stragglers behind the main pack.

Bennett animates Le Tour stage 13 in breakaway

The stage got off to another fast start with a number of riders again looking to make the break.

Team Qhubeka NextHash were once again very active and were rewarded for their efforts when American, Sean Bennett made the break of the day. Only two other riders joined Bennett on the attack, and so it was set to be a long and hard day under the baking sun for the trio.

They managed to force open a lead of 4-minutes at one point but the peloton easily had the gap under control. With a bit of wind about from 60km to go some attacks began in the peloton.

These accelerations quickly brought back the the three escapees and created some nervousness in the peloton, as nobody wanted to be caught out in echelons. A crash in the peloton created a small split, fortunately no Team Qhubeka NextHash riders went down.

Coming into the sprint, Max Walscheid was battling for position up at the head of the race for the final 20km. Deceuninck-Quickstep being the only team with a sprint train in the race, were in total control though. The finale was somewhat technical but that didn’t stop their sprinter, Cavendish, from taking another stage win, his fourth of the race.

Walscheid would finish as our best placed rider on the stage, crossing the line in 14th place after suffering a mechanical in with approximately 1.5km to go.

VIDEO: 2021 Tour de France Stage 13 Highlights

2021 Tour de France Stage 13 Top 10

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 05:04:29
2 Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
4 Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
6 Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
7 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
8 André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation
9 Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo

2021 Tour de France General classification after stage 13

1 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 52:27:12
2 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo 00:05:18
3 Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 00:05:32
4 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers 00:05:33
5 Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team 00:05:58
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:06:16
7 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech 00:06:30
8 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 00:07:11
9 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis 00:09:29
10 Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious 00:10:28