Tour de France stage 13 analysis: The butterfly effect and Cavendish's record

Procycling's analysis of Mark Cavendish's 34th Tour de France stage win
Procycling's analysis of Mark Cavendish's 34th Tour de France stage win (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Things aren't quite happening the way they are supposed to in this Tour de France. Thursday's stage in Nîmes was a nailed-on sprint – the last non-sprinter to win in the city was Aitor González in 2004. Then Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) won, a full quarter of an hour before the bunch rolled in. Conversely, no sprinter had ever won in Carcassonne. Nevertheless, Mark Cavendish took his historic 34th Tour stage victory in the 13th stage of the 2021 Tour, 13 years to the day after his first.

The sprint didn't quite happen the way it was supposed to, either. Despite an attritional, kiln-hot day in the Languedoc and a crash which cost Cavendish's Deceuninck-QuickStep team their main bunch engine Tim Declercq for the final 60 kilometres, the Belgian squad still managed to emerge in the final 1.5 kilometres with a line of four riders on the front of the bunch: Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini, Michael Mørkøv and Mark Cavendish. In a Tour that has been marked by chaos, disruption and unpredictability, the final mile of the stage at least looked straightforward: Asgreen from 1.5 kilometres to 700 metres, Ballerini from 700 to 400, Mørkøv from 400 to 200 and then Cavendish.

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Edward Pickering is Procycling magazine's editor. He graduated in French and Art History from Leeds University and spent three years teaching English in Japan before returning to do a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at Harlow College, Essex. He did a two-week internship at Cycling Weekly in late 2001 and didn't leave until 11 years later, by which time he was Cycle Sport magazine's deputy editor. After two years as a freelance writer, he joined Procycling as editor in 2015. He is the author of The Race Against Time, The Yellow Jersey Club and Ronde, and he spends his spare time running, playing the piano and playing taiko drums.