The peloton reacts to Cavendish’s Tour exit

From teammates to rivals, many of this year's Tour riders grew up watching the sprinter dominate the Tour, and his longevity has meant they got to race alongside him in it.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 08.07.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Just as quickly as Mark Cavendish sprinted, his final Tour de France ended in an equally rapid blur. It was a quick compression of the pack on a straight, flat road at an innocuous point in the stage, the kind that happens all the time. Suddenly he was on the floor, grimacing and holding his shoulder, soon loaded into the back of an ambulance, his stare from the passenger seat a thousand yards long as his record-breaking dream came to a close.

After the stage, it was all anyone could talk about. Lidl-Trek’s Mads Pedersen won an impressive uphill sprint as Jasper Philipsen was finally bested, but the tributes flowed out from the peloton for Cavendish. Many would have grown up watching him race when they were still dreaming of reaching the Tour one day, and the sprinter’s longevity meant once they made it Cavendish was still around and still at the pointy end of bunch sprints.

Here is the reaction from those who saw the crash, his Astana-Qazaqstan teammates, as well as tributes from other members of the peloton.

The crash from those who saw it

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious)

I would say it was just a stupid crash maybe due to the hot weather. I saw many dangerous situations today. I didn’t notice, just when I arrived at the finish line they told me Mark was involved in the same crash. These things happen and nobody is responsible. Just they brake full gas in the front and we have to stop and shit happens. I couldn’t stop the bike on time.

Gianni Moscon (Astana-Qazaqstan)

Someone changed their line in front and he hit the wheel and went down. It’s quite bad, I stayed with him to see how he was but it was clear he wasn’t able to keep going with the race so we had to go back to the peloton.

There wasn’t much to say [to him]. I tried to see how it was and if I could help him to get back to the race. It’s a really sad day for us, the rest of the stage was really sad. We tried to organise anyway to do something in the final but it was a really chaotic stage, a lot of crashes, I got hit from behind and crashed myself with five km to go. The only thing I think about now is Mark and I hope he’s not too bad.

The view from inside Astana-Qazaqstan

David de la Cruz, teammate

No I mean, the crash was when we were going uphill. A normal tempo, just a few riders touched each other and then you get on the brakes and someone crashed and if you are not in the moment focused or super ready to brake you can fall over because we ride so close to each other. These things happen many times. It’s super sad that it happened to Mark because normally you have those crashes and nothing happens. Now we have to swallow this and refocus in the Tour.

Mark is one of the most charismatic riders I’ve ever met. I’ve been with many good riders. He was giving a lot of good energy to the team, he always brought a good mood. You could see that every day there was a lot of expectation of Astana-Qazaqstan, he was the most key rider of this team so far in the Tour de France.

A close second on stage 7 signaled a possible outright stage wins record, but a day later Cavendish was shockingly out of the race. Photo © Nico Vereecken / Cor Vos

Mark Renshaw, sprint consultant and former teammate

Yeah, it hurts more than yesterday and I didn’t think that was really going to be possible. To finish second yesterday, and then today to have this happen to Mark, it’s hard because we all know his shape’s there, he’s there for the win, he has the legs. It’s there, so, all we know at the moment, I don’t want to say too much for him, but I imagine he’s really disappointed, as are all the riders because they came here with a clear objective.

At the moment all we can say is he’s on his way to the hospital in Peyragudes, at the moment the team doctor, team press, and social media guy are on the way there to speak with him. So I don’t want to make too many comments after this, just that he’s on his way to the hospital and as soon as they have an official press release with the exact medical problems then they’ll release that.

And what are your emotions?

I won’t lie, I cried. As did Maurizio in the car, everyone in the team is hurting because there’s a hell of a lot of work gone in, I’ve been fortunate enough to come in last minute. Alexandre Vinokourov took a chance on him, and who woulda thought in January that he’d be here running second in the Tour de France and then next day crashing.

Try to sum up the last eight days.

It doesn’t get any better, I’ve had the chance to come here and integrate with the team and try to share my thoughts, I know all the guys there they still have a job to do and we’ll stay super focused, we’ll try to honour Cav with a victory, but it’s a big hit and it’s really hard.

The peloton reacts

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

When I heard in the race he’d crashed it was a sad moment because he’s in good shape now. I think everybody here wanted him to win one stage and yesterday he was super close. It’s a bad moment. For sure he was one of my favourites, when we were kids, watching HTC-Highroad, him sprinting on the Champs-Élysées and stuff like that we just wanted to have his style, his legs. It’s a real shame, everyone wants to see him go for one more win. He said that it was his final year. Maybe not.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek)

For me, it was a pleasure to be able to race with Mark. I always had a good relationship with him in the peloton, and it’s so sad that such a legend has to finish the Tour like this. He still owes me a jersey – we need a jersey swap – but I wish all the best for Mark and hopefully I can do the last race he’s going to do as well, to honour a legend who stops in cycling.

Cavendish is legendary for his victory celebrations, like this nod to the team sponsor, from stage 3 of the 2009 Tour. Photo © Cor Vos

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)

I’m very sad to hear about Mark. I spoke with him a few times in my first Tour de France and also this year. He’s a super nice guy and I would have loved to see him take the 35th stage win. I still remember when I was a kid watching him with all his celebrations, the Oakley glasses, the telephone. He was my big idol. It’s really a big shame for him, I hope he’s okay.

Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious)

It’s heartbreaking really. I’ve only just found out now, I mean you could tell there was carnage going on behind, but we were just fighting fighting fighting to be in the front the whole time. I mean… it’s just… it’s just terrible, terrible news, because I think it was coming. As much as I want Phil [Bauhaus] to win his stage, I think Cav was due the 35th this Tour. He showed it yesterday. Just gotta congratulate him on a great career, I’ve learned a lot from him.

He’ll come back next year?

Knowing him, he’ll probably be here.

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