Hinault and Merckx praise Cavendish for his Tour de France stage victories

'He's deserved all his 28 wins,' says the Badger

After equalling Bernard Hinault's total of 28 Tour de France victories in Angers, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) refuted any comparisons with the five-time race winner but proudly shook hands with the Frenchman on the podium, who congratulated him and encouraged him to go on to beat all-time stage winner Eddy Merckx, who won 34 stages during his incredible career.

"I'm not bothered that Mark has passed me in the record book, records are made to be broken," Hinault told French television.

"In the last two years we perhaps forgot about Mark because he won a little bit less but in truth he was still a good sprinter. Now he's back at his very best.

"He's deserved all his 28 wins. His sprint was magnifique, as was his first win in Utah Beach on stage one. Considering his age Mark has plenty of chances to beat even Eddy, who is only six wins ahead of us."

Excluding time trial victories, Cavendish would still have a total of 28 stage victories at the Tour de France, while Hinault would have just seven and Merckx would have 17. Of course it is difficult to compare the success of five-time Grand Tour winners from different generations to one of the best printers in the history of the sport. A better comparison would be French sprinter Andre Darrigade, who won 22 stages in the Tour de France, including five opening stages.

Ever the Cannibal, Merckx savoured Cavendish's second stage victory watching on television at home in Belgium but he was not as sporting as Hinault.

"There's no point in making comparisons, I won stages because I needed them to win the Tour. It was very different," he argued when contacted by Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's difficult to say who is the best ever sprinter because there have been a lot of strong ones, including people like Mario Cipollini."

Merckx remains as competitive as ever, despite being 71. However he admires Cavendish for his ability to race on both the road and the track.

"I think he's back to his best thanks to his track training for the Rio Olympics. The track gives you speed, vision and timing. He's started a run of results now and there's no reason why it can't continue."

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