Tour de France: Mark Cavendish takes miraculous stage 4 victory

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) turned back time on Tuesday with a fairytale victory on stage 4 of the Tour de France, the 31st of his career and his first since 2016.

Cavendish’s career appeared to be fizzling out towards the end of last year but he has been reborn in 2021 and completed one of the greatest resurgences this sport has seen, taking place in Fougères, a scene of one of those 30 former glories.

It was a breathtaking finale, as Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) survived from a two-man breakaway all the way to the final 200 metres. In fact, Cavendish’s sprint was complicated by the big Belgian, who by then was effectively moving backwards.

The sprint had been led out by stage 3 winner Tim Merlier, as Alpecin-Fenix switched tactics and plumped for Jasper Philipsen, and Cavendish managed to squeeze past Van Moer just as his rival was opening up. Philipsen had the jump, but Cavendish was able to outpower him through the gentle bend on the slightly uphill drag, where he raised his arms in delight before collapsing to the tarmac in tears.

Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) came up to take second place, with Philipsen hanging on for third ahead of Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Cees Bol (Team DSM).

“I don't know what to say. Just being here is special enough, you know? I didn't think I'd get to come back to this race,” said Cavendish, whose last appearance came in 2018.

The significance of the location was not lost upon him. Chateauroux on Thursday had been scripted for the fairytale as the scene of his first Tour de France victory 13 years ago, but Fougères was where he took his third and final win for QuickStep in 2015 in his previous stint at the team.

After not winning for three years, he has resurrected his career at the Belgian squad, first taking some minor podiums, then raising his arms at the Tour of Turkey, then winning bigger at the Belgium Tour, and then earning a ticket to the Tour after the injury to the team’s lead sprinter, Sam Bennett.

“When you come to Deceuninck-QuickStep, they have the best riders in the world, so it wasn't even a thought to come here. But the stars aligned,” Cavendish said. “So many people didn't believe in me, and these guys do.”

There was no change to the overall standings, with Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) retaining the yellow jersey ahead of the stage 5 time trial. There was a cherry on the cake for Cavendish, who pulled on the green jersey for the first time since 2016 after taking the lead of the points classification.

How it unfolded

There were no immediate attacks after the peloton had rolled out of Redon. That’s because the riders had organised a protest after the spate of crashes the previous afternoon, which many felt were caused in part by a dangerous run-in to Pontivy. Organised is perhaps the wrong word for it, as the planned stop at kilometre-zero didn’t come to pass – not until André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) asked what was going on and came to the fore to bring the bunch to a halt a kilometre or so in.

After a couple of minutes, green jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was the rider who got things moving again, but the racing had to wait as the the bunch collectively enacted a go-slow for the best part of 10 kilometres.

Alpecin-Fenix were the first team to lift the tempo, while Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) was the first to go on the attack. The Belgian was joined by Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), but no one else was interested in getting involved in the breakaway.

Despite just being a duo, they were only allowed an advantage of three minutes before the sprinters’ teams came to the front of the peloton to keep them on a short leash. Groupama-FDJ, Deceuninck-QuickStep, and Alpecin-Fenix were the teams doing the work, with Lotto Soudal having to change approach through Van Moer after their sprinter Caleb Ewan crashed out on Monday.

The terrain was largely flat, with no categorized climbs, and the situation remained calm and stable for much of the day. The gap between break and bunch dropped to two minutes with 100km to go and stayed there for the next 40km.

With 50km to go, Cavendish had a mechanical and required a bike change, but rejoined the peloton with a minimum of fuss. By that point, the gap had come down towards 1:30, and the intermediate sprint in Vitré was coming into view.

In the breakaway, Van Moer showed an interest and sprinted away from Périchon to claim maximum points, while Cavendish was first from the bunch after a lead out from Michael Mørkøv. Bouhanni was just behind, while Matthews, Greipel, and Sagan were also in the mix.

Heading into the final 30km, the gap stood at 1:15 but the battle for positions ahead of the final started to build up. It only really intensified once they were through the 20km-to-go banner, with Groupama-FDJ, Alpecin-Fenix, and Ineos Grenadiers on the left-hand side of the road, and Qhubeka-NextHash, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Trek-Segafredo on the right. Bora-Hansgrohe, Team DSM and Movistar were prominent through the middle.

There was a big surge into a sweeping right-hand bend off the main road and onto narrower streets, where Ineos’ Luke Rowe emerged in pole position.

With 15km to go, and the gap at 30 seconds, Périchon launched an acceleration but was unable to shake Van Moer. Soon after, the Belgian asked about the lack of cooperation before launching an attack of his own. After several seconds out of the saddle, he was away, taking 45 seconds into the final 13km. At that point, the urgency ebbed from the bunch, and it went out to a minute.

Under the 10km-to-go banner, the gap was 1:05, with the peloton still bunched up and no team really taking responsibility for the chase. With 7.5km to go, they turned off the country lane and out onto a wider road, and that’s where the pace was finally lifted, but the gap was still just above a minute.

DSM and Groupama-FDJ took up the reins initially, and then Alpecin-Fenix, although Lotto Soudal were placing blockers to disrupt the trains. The gap started to fall but Van Moer still entered the final 5km with a lead of 50 seconds.

Deceuninck-QuickStep then came to the fore and initiated an even bigger push, but that only lasted until 3.5km to go. Alpecin were also running out of numbers but DSM and Trek-Segafredo then took it up. With 2.5km to go, the gap had been reduced to 25 seconds.

Van Moer hit the false flat in the final 1500 metres with just 15 seconds in hand, desperately trying to hang on. At that point Alaphilippe hit the front, with Mørkøv and Cavendish in the wheel. Alpecin-Fenix, however, came through to perform the lead-out proper, with stage 3 winner Tim Merlier switching into support mode. 

He pulled aside and launched Philipsen before Van Moer had even been caught, with the Belgian finally caught just inside 200 metres to go. It was heartbreak for him – so close to a famous moment but instead resigned to a footnote in the Cavendish fairytale.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 3:20:17
2Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
3Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
4Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
5Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
7Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
8Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
9Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
10André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation
11Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
12Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
13Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM
14Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
15Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation
16Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Qhubeka-NextHash
17Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
18Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious
19Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
20Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
21Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
22David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
23Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
24Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
25Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
26Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
27Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
28Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
29Julien Simon (Fra) TotalEnergies
30Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team
31Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
32Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
33Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
34Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
35Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
36Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix
37Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
38Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM
39Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
40Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
41Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
42Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
43Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
44Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo
45Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
46Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
47Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
48Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Qhubeka-NextHash
49Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
50Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies
51Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange
52Jonas Koch (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
53Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
54Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
55Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
56Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team
57Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
58Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash
59Franck Bonnamour (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
60Fabien Doubey (Fra) TotalEnergies
61Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
62Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
63Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
64Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
65Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education-Nippo
66Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
67Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo
68Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
69Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team
70Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange
71Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo
72Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies
73Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo
74Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious
75Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
76Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange
77Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
78Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM
79Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
80Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech
81Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers
82Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar Team
83Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
84Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
85Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
86Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis
87Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
88Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM
89Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
90Tony Martin (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
91Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team
92Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates
93Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
94Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech
95Elie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
96Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
97Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
98Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
99Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
100Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
101Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
102Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo
103Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
104Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis
105Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
106Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
107Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal
108Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
109Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
110Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
111Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech
112Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
113Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
114Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
115Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ
116Maxime Chevalier (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
117Victor de la Parte (Spa) TotalEnergies
118Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo
119Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation
120Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
121Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
122Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
123Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
124Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:26
125Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) TotalEnergies 0:00:41
126Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal
127Chris Froome (GBr) Israel Start-up Nation
128Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:43
129Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
130Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM
131Carlos Barbero (Spa) Qhubeka-NextHash
132Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:47
133Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
134Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis 0:00:50
135Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious 0:01:04
136Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious
137Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:07
138Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
139Rafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates
140Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
141Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
142Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Qhubeka-NextHash
143Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange
144Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo
145Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
146Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
147Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
148Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
149Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
150Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team BikeExchange
151Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team
152Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
153Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis
154Georg Zimmermann (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:01:23
155Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
156Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation 0:01:28
157Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
158Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
159Michael Gogl (Aut) Qhubeka-NextHash
160Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers
161Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
162Sean Bennett (USA) Qhubeka-NextHash
163Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
164Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
165Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
166Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:33
167Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM
168Petr Vakoc (Cze) Alpecin-Fenix
169Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange
170Simon Clarke (Aus) Qhubeka-NextHash
171Jeremy Cabot (Fra) TotalEnergies
172Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:38
173Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:47
174Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange
175Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra) Cofidis 0:01:57
176Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:04:04
177Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:07:16
DNSCaleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
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Sprint 1 - Vitré, km. 114.4
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal 20
2Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fra) Cofidis 17
3Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 15
4Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 13
5Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 11
6Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange 10
7André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation 9
8Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 8
9Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 7
10Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM 6
11Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 5
12Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic 4
13Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange 3
14Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 2
15Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ 1
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Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 50
2Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 30
3Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 20
4Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange 18
5Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 16
6Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM 14
7Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis 12
8Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo 10
9Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 8
10André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation 7
11Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 6
12Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 5
13Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM 4
14Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech 3
15Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation 2
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Young Riders
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 3:20:17
2Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM
3Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
4David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
6Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
7Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo
8Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team BikeExchange
10Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma
11Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM
12Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
13Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates
14Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech
15Omer Goldstein (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
16Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo