When I put this story together, I did not anticipate Mark Cavendish was going to still be going on stage 14, having won no fewer than 4 of them outright! But hey, it’s good to celebrate success, and to recycle material, so here we go again.
This year's Tour de France was always going to be unpredictable but surely, nobody could have foreseen Mark Cavendish winning four stages in 11 days at the age of 36, after serious illness and half a decade without a Grand Tour stage win. Not even Mark Cavendish.
The Manx Missile is hardly a newcomer to Tour de France success; these were his 31st, 32nd, 33rd and 34th stage wins there overall, putting him level with all-time great and legit famous Belgian, Eddy Merckx. They've also put Cav firmly back in the green jersey, which he won outright in 2011.
The incredible thing is that his first 2021 triumph – Stage 4, on Tuesday June 29 – was actually Mark's first stage win in any of cycling's most prestigious races for five long years. Since 2016, he has had serious health problems, was without a team for some time, and is now 36. In cycling terms, that is not far off coming back from the dead. Oh, and he was only at the Tour in the first place as a late replacement due to injury. And, if you want even more drama, in stage 3, Cav was involved in a crash in which his bike ended up in a state that he described as 'destroyed'.
So, you are probably wondering, how has he pulled off this Lazarus-like return? Firstly, Cavendish is an astonishing athlete, with an extremely spiky style. After winning stage 4, one of his choicest remarks was that a lot of the writers in the press room probably hadn't written a decent story for longer than it had taken him to win another stage – ouch.
Cav likes to adjust his riding position almost daily, adjusting his cleats and everything else one can adjust on a bike, to make sure he is getting the best out of his kit at every point. Many might see this as fussy but he's very clear that his body changes a lot between stages, and needs to make adjustments to suit how things feel on the day. You have to say that right now, it's working!
He also has all the best gear that his team – Patrick Lefevere's Deceuninck-Quick-Step – can buy. I met Cavendish a few years ago and he had a copy of T3 magazine (and, ahem, a certain other, low-rent, so-called rival publication) in his bag… So he clearly knows his tech. It also turns out that he's riding T3's current favourite road bike to glory in France.
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The tech that put Mark Cavendish back on top
Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
The supremely versatile SL7 – also a T3 Award winner and currently #1 in our best road bikes list – is a worthy ride for a legend like Cavendish.
Cav's SL7 is tricked out with a top-of-the-line Dura-Ace R9150 groupset from Shimano, hydraulic disc brakes – not that I think they got much use – and a Dura-Ace DI2 rear derailleur and cassette.
An interesting thing about the Tarmac SL7 is that Specialized has made it fully unisex – no inferior spec for women here, just a great road bike for people of all genders and, judging by Cav's success on it, for all ages too. Okay, 36 isn't that old.
• Read our Specialized Tarmac SL7 review
S-Works Evade w/ ANGI
As I mentioned, there have been some terrible crashes in this year's Tour, including the one where that loopy lady decided to take out the peloton while staging an 'amusing' Instagram moment. Giving some peace of mind, Specialized also provided Mark's helmet, in the form of this S-Works Evade w/ ANGI.
Wit this helmet, Specialized claims to have found the perfect mix of uncompromising safety and supremely light weight. Admittedly, every helmet manufacturer claims that, but this one is a bit special (ized). With enhanced Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS for protection and ventilation that makes it 'just as cool as a bare head', Specialized says the Evade 'saves 50 seconds over 40km versus a traditional road helmet and roughly six seconds over the prior iteration of Evade.'
Last but not least, the ANGI crash sensor texts specified contacts, should the worst happen. It also syncs with Specialized's Android and iOS app – and Strava – for GPS-based activity tracking. Does Mark Cavendish really wear a crash sensor in the Tour de France? Specialized assures us he does.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and Wahoo Elemnt Rival
No, that's not a typo; that's just Wahoo's distinctive spelling style for its products. Or is it 'distnctve'? The Elemnt Bolt is Wahoo's most advanced bike computer to date. The screen is just 2.2 inches across, which keeps the unit nice and compact. An ambient light sensor means key metrics can be seen even in the searing sun of southern France. Navigation features are probably less useful to Mark Cavendish during a race, but they are there and no doubt handy for you, sir/madam.
Equipped with Bluetooth Smart, ANT+, and Wi-Fi, the Bolt pairs with the SL7's sensors and meters, and also with Wahoo's Elemnt Rival multi-sport watch.
• Read our Wahoo Elemnt Rival review
Every heartbeat counts when a sprint finish hoves into view. Cav was able to pace his race then time his finish to perfection, quite possibly thanks to this Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor. Now able to support up to three simultaneous Bluetooth connections, the Tickr will have fed data to Cavendish's Bolt race computer and to Team Deceuninck-Quick-Step's resident men in white coats and/or tracksuits.
Close fitting, comfortable and totally reliable, the Tickr is just what you need in the Tour de France. It's cheap, too!