Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France career ended on stage 8 of the 2023 Tour de France after a crash at the back of the peloton resulted in a suspected broken collarbone for the veteran sprinter.
The incident happened about 60 km from the end of the stage to Limoges, in the hillier part of the route, when a seemingly innocuous bunching up of the peloton caused a concertina effect that meant those lingering towards the rear were most at risk. It looked like everyone had escaped trouble until the peloton began to move on to reveal a single fallen turquoise jersey amid a small group that was momentarily held up.
Cavendish was the man curled up on the ground, and the moment he began to move towards getting up, his body language showed all the signs well-worn fans and spectators have come to know and dread, the signs that clearly indicate an all-too-common collarbone injury.
The 38-year-old had announced that this Tour would be his last, meaning he had one more chance, three more weeks, just a handful more sprints with which to take the stage win record outright. The punchy acceleration that delivered him to second on stage 7 – despite apparent mechanical issues – indicated that his hopes of adding a historic 35th stage to his staggering tally were well founded.
Cavendish’s results in sprint stages this Tour had been promising and improved with each successive bunch finish: from sixth on stage 3 to fifth the next day and second yesterday in Bordeaux. And Cavendish’s wins at the Tour have historically come sprinkled throughout the race, winning early and late. While stage 8’s slightly uphill finish wasn’t textbook for his talents, there were three more chances left after his near-miss in Bordeaux.
But it was not to be. Cavendish will not make it to Paris at his last Tour de France, and he’ll end his career tied with Eddy Merckx on an incredible 34 stage wins.
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