Mark Cavendish has made a sensational comeback to being a challenger for Tour de France stages in 2021, and pointed out that such a feat could yet be in reach of Chris Froome.
Froome has not been a contender this year as he uses the Tour to return to full fitness after a huge crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine, but Cavendish warned that his experience proves that the best riders cannot be written off.
"I think I can talk from personal experience: you don't write someone off," Cavendish said on Monday's rest day.
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"Chris Froome has been a champion for many years and there are very, very few people in the world who can get to be that level, so people will not understand the mindset of the fight to get back to that.
"There'll always be people who can never understand what it's like to be that successful.
"Froomey's a friend of mine, but even if it was someone I didn't like… If I see somebody being able to suffer, not just physically but mentally as well, to get back to where they were, then I applaud it. It's the strongest thing you can do."
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Cavendish was assisted by three of his Deceuninck-QuickStep colleagues in the last stage, where he beat the time cut-off by just 97 seconds, reflecting his resurgent importance as the team’s new premier sprinter in Sam Bennett’s absence.
"Dries Devenyns, Tim Declercq and Michael Morkov could have had a relatively easy day in a big gruppetto but they stayed with me and kept me motivated through a horrendous stage. It's been incredible.
"If we stop now, this would be one of the nicest Tours I've been part of."
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He continued: "I can't remember the first rest day of the Tour de France feeling like a second rest day."
Cavendish has two stage wins to his name, in Fougères and Chateaureaux, taking him to 32 wins at the Tour, two short of Eddy Merckx’s record.
The 36-year-old Manx veteran was not sure how the rest of the Tour would go, given the early exit of a number of prominent riders.
"There's a lot less sprinters, that's for sure, but whether that has an effect on catching the breakaway, I don't know, because there were really only two teams who were chasing the breakaway anyway," Cavendish said.
"We'll just have to see. We've got a strong group, an experienced group that knows how to control a race and we just have to hope for the best, I guess."
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