the Deceuninck-QuickStep The sprinter beat Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) to the finish line in a victory reminiscent of his victory in 2015 against André Greipel on the same finish in uphill and in curve.
Overwhelmed by emotions after the victory, Cavendish said he never thought he would return to the Tour after several difficult seasons which included battles with the Epstein-Barr virus and depression.
” I do not know what to say. Just being here is pretty special, you know? Cavendish said. “I didn’t think I could come back to this race.
“I thought I would never come back to this race. When you come to Deceuninck-QuickStep they have the best runners in the world so it was not even an idea to come here.”
Cavendish joined the Belgian squad at the end of last year after fearing he would be forced to retire in November. He had his best season since 2016, scoring five wins until June, and was called up late to the Tour squad after Sam Bennett was excluded with a knee injury.
“The stars have aligned,” Cavendish said of his selection. “I never want bad things to happen to other people, but after last year it’s just nice to be lucky and healthy.”
On the climb to the line, Cavendish was helped by point guard Michael Mørkøv and green jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe, while fumble Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) was caught just 200 meters before the line. After riding Philipsen’s wheel in the final, he jumped over the edge to win the number 31 of the Tour de France.
“Just the fire of the whole team,” Cavendish said. “We didn’t know if we would get it [Van Moer] at the end. We lost Ballero [Ballerini] because he lost spokes in his wheel. Then you see how great a team they are, you’ve got the green jersey and the world champion Julian Alaphilippe – he’s just coming in to catch up with the breakaway, while putting everything on. So many people didn’t believe in me, and these guys do. “
Mørkøv congratulated Cavendish – who is now in green – after the stage, praising his preparation to be at this level although he was not originally ready to race the Tour.
“Mark is a legend and I’m really proud to ride with him and bring him back to that level. Before today he had 30 wins in this race and helping him come back to winning at a high level is also a moment. of pride. “, said Mørkøv.
“He wasn’t even in the locker room when the team was selected. He arrived at the last moment and showed today that he is a true professional cyclist who is prepared even though he is not supposed to. race. He took his chance and it paid off.