Mark Cavendish says a "bad decision" cost him a fairytale ending to the Tour de France as he missed out on a record 35th stage win on the Champs Elysees.
The 36-year-old won four stages at the Tour to equal Eddy Merckx’s all-time record for most stages wins at the race (34).
He had a chance to break the record on the final stage of the 2021 race but was beaten to the line by Wout van Aert.
Tour de France
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"I’ve won four times on the Champs Elysées, and it’s the most prestigious finishing straight in the world for a sprinter," Cavendish, who also won the green jersey, told the BBC.
"It’s not since 2012 that I won there. It would have given me a fifth win and now I’m level on stage wins with the great Eddy Merckx, it would have put me one ahead.
"We were all up for it. I just made a bad decision in the end. I left my lead-out man and I thought that I’d find a better way but I didn’t. I let the boys down and I got boxed in. I was disappointed but the consolation was that I was on the podium in the green jersey. It’s been a journey. It’s not been an easy one but it’s been a beautiful one."
While there was disappointment for Cavendish in the final sprint finish, it was still a sensational three weeks for the Deceuninck Quick-Step sprinter.
Cavendish was only called up as a late replacement after his team-mate Sam Bennett was injured.
"If we'd talked four weeks ago, I wasn't even going to be at this race," he said.
"I never really thought about getting it [the green points jersey] since 2011. I am super grateful - it feels like I am getting younger. I'm back, it's a dream.
"To be here 10 years later, again with the green jersey, it's fantastic. The support of the public has been incredible during all the Tour de France. Coming back to Paris is an honour."
Cavendish looked to be nearing the end of his career after battling illness and injuries, and failing to win once over the last two years.
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However, a stunning return to form at the Tour of Turkey, where he won four stages, helped put him in contention for the Tour de France.
He says he is unsure yet whether he will return to the race next year and try to break the all-time stage win record.
"I don’t know, we'll see. It’s another year away yet. If I’m honest it’s my 13th Tour but we’ll see what happens. First I want to spend time with my family, reflect and relax and see what happens in the next few weeks."
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