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    Mark Cavendish: the best sprinter in the history of the Tour de France?

    5 live cycling summariser

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    Yesterday Mark Cavendish won his 24th Tour Stage, and he did it with ease. He’s arguably the best sprinter that the cycling world has ever seen.

    Sprinters are a special breed, but what makes a good one and what makes Mark Cavendish stand out from the rest?

    You obviously need speed, but how does the Manx Missile manage to create more than Peter Sagan, who has come second twice so far in this year's Tour, and third yesterday?

    The answer is strength, power, and aggression. But you also need cunning bike-handling ability, a cool head, and most of all you need to be fearless. These guys do not give way.

    The build of a sprinter is more muscular, often stockier than the leaner all-rounders or climbers.  

    But it’s the burst of power that Cav generates in such a short space of time that separates him from the best of the rest. In one or two revolutions of the wheel he can get a wheel, or bike lengths clearance – this is astonishing.

    However, it’s no good being superfast if you don’t have the bravery to see a gap or the craft to pick the right wheel, or the calmness to wait; not to sprint too early.

    I have watched him for a good few years now and it still amazes me how he never panics in such an intense environment. He always seems to be in complete control.

    He is a phenomenon and we are privileged to see him

    Simon Brotherton - 5 live cycling commentator:

    Mark Cavendish’s win in Marseille showed again how he’s the master when it comes to sprinting and further cemented my opinion that he’s the greatest sprinter in the history of the Tour de France.

    His Omega Pharma Quick Step team mates filled their part of the equation admirably by putting him in the right place as the race headed for the finish, but it could all have gone wrong had he made the wrong choice at any moment in the final few hundred metres.

    There are so many split second decisions to take in the melee of a mass gallop, but Cavendish reads a race like no one else. He doesn’t panic and has an acceleration when he makes his move that makes him almost impossible to live with. He’s got a very aerodynamic, small frontal area when down on the drops of the handlebars, and takes hardly any time to accelerate, unlike some of his bigger, more muscular rivals.

    The Manxman also has what can only be described as a second acceleration, which I guess is rather like a turbo boost in a computer game. Twenty-four stage wins leaves him just one short of joint 3rd place on the all time in the Tour alongside Andre Leducq, with only Bernard Hinault on 28 and Eddy Merckx with 34 stage wins ahead of him.

    His success rate in the most competitive and ruthless cycling environment in the world is remarkable and we’re watching a truly special talent. Today’s stage takes the riders to Montpellier and will be on Cavendish’s list. He’s won here at this very spot outside the rugby ground before.

    Coverage of the Tour de France continues from 3.30pm on Thursday 4 July on 5 live Sports Extra. Download the BeSpoke podcast for daily analysis from commentator Simon Brotherton and the team.


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