The British rider, who has already won four stages in this year’s race, and has drawn level with Eddy Merckx for the all-time record of 34 stage wins, finished stage 17 from Muret to the Col du Portet over half an hour down on the winner but a full five minutes inside the time-cut.
Stage 17 was always going to be a major test for Cavendish and a number of sprinters still in the race with the 178km stage containing three major ascents – the Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Azet, and then the 16km long summit finish climb of the Col du Portet.
Cavendish played an active role soon after the stage started, and patrolled the front of the bunch as several riders tried to form a break. When none of his rivals for the green jersey slipped away the British rider could afford to sit in the peloton and wait for the intermediate sprint at Luchon. There, he conceded a single point to Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange).
At the foot of the Col de Peyresourde several riders were quickly distanced but Cavendish was well protected by his teammates. He quickly lost two minutes as UAE Team Emirates set a blistering pace on the climb but the Belgian squad helped Cavendish to limit his losses.
By the time Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the stage and extended his lead in the overall standings Cavendish was still making his way up the lower slopes of the final climb but he would eventually come over the line in 140th place and in the last group on that toad at 34:10.
Cavendish finished alongside four of his teammates, as well as Simon Clarke, Luka Mezgec and last man over the line, Cees Bol.
In terms of the green jersey, Cavendish leads Matthews by 36 points with Sonny Colbrelli 86 points in arrears. Although that lead looks healthy and Cavendish still has two more sprints chances to come in the final week – including the famous finish on the Champs-Élysées – the former world road champion has another tough day in the mountains ahead of him with a second straight summit finish at Luz Ardiden to come on stage 18.
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