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Technically, Cavendish is still tied with Merckx for stage wins

Mark Cavendish is still tied with Eddy Merckx for stage wins

On Wednesday, Mark Cavendish took an incredible win at the Tour de France and with it, the lead for all-time stage victories. That number is 35—before that, he was tied with Eddy Merckx at 34. But if you really want to get technical, Merckx also has 35 wins to his name.

The Manx Missile took the win at Stage 5, after a chaotic finale. The race was 177 km from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Saint-Vulbas, and he outkicked Belgian Jasper Philipsen and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff to clinch first place.

“I’m getting old, and I’ve got to get in shape every year, and it’s hard. But everyone has been involved, I’ve got a lot of support. My family came yesterday. Perfect timing,” he said after the stage. “Winning one stage can make a career, and I’ve always felt the need to win one more, and another one after that.”

It was a storybook ending for Cav, who un-retired after having to quit the 2023 Tour early due to a crash. He decided to return for one last go at it in 2024 and got the win he’d been looking for: number 35.

In 1977, his last full year racing, the Belgian finished sixth at the Tour.

The 64th edition of the race saw Bernard Thévenet claim his second and final victory. Held from June 30 to July 24, the race covered 22 stages over 4,094 km. Thévenet, riding for Peugeot-Esso-Michelin, overcame the competition with a combination of strong climbing and tactical savvy. Merckx, a five-time winner, made his last Tour appearance. The race was marked by the debut of the prologue time trial, a tradition that continued for many years. Hennie Kuiper finished second ahead of Lucien Van Impe. Thévenet’s teammate Jacques Esclassan took the points, Van Impe the polka dots, and Dietrich Thurau won the young rider classification.

During the 1977 Tour, Merckx’s Fiat team took a win in the TTT (which doesn’t count for individual stage wins, obviously), but in theory, he also won another, in Stage 18.

How so, you’re probably wondering? The race that day in late July was a mountain stage, at 199 km from Rossignol Voiron to Saint-Étienne.

Portuguese rider Joaquim Agostinho (Teka) took the win, ahead of Spaniard Antonio Menéndez. Merckx finished third.

After the race, both Agostinho and Menéndez failed their doping tests and were relegated. (Back then, you didn’t get disqualified for doping, rather a time penalty.) Which means Merckx won the stage. The problem was the organizers only tested the first two—and not Merckx. So without a…

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