When Britain’s Mark Cavendish took victory on Stage 21 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia (May 26) he became the first sprinter in five years to win the race’s coveted red points leader’s jersey. But, perhaps more significantly, having been awarded the equivalent at both the Vuelta a Espana (in 2010) and Tour de France (2011), he became only the fifth rider ever to win it across all three Grand Tours – joining Eddy Merckx, Alessandro Petacchi, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live Brian Cookson, President of British Cycling, has described the 28-year-old Isle of Man sprint star – who joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step this season from Team Sky – as ‘almost unbeatable’. With Cav currently having an impressive 23 stage wins of the Tour de France under his wheels, Cookson commented ‘He has certainly got a good chance of overtaking the great Eddy Merckx during his career.’
Merckx, widely regarded as the greatest every cyclist, currently holds the TdF stage win record (34), holds three world titles, won the TdF five times between 1969 and ’74, claimed victory the same number of times at the Giro and also claimed a win of the Vuelta a Espana in 1973. Cavendish undeniably has potential to continue his climb (sprint?) to great heights, but just look at some of Merckx claims to fame:
In 1972 he enjoyed a 39% ‘win rate’ (in 1970 and ’73 it was 37%).
He enjoyed a record 525 career victories.
He jointly shares – with Charles Pélissier (1930) and Freddy Maertens (1976) – the record of eight stage wins in a single TdF.
He is the only cyclist to have won the GC, Points and Mountains Classification in the same TdF (1969).
Can Cav beat that?