Mark Cavendish has crashed out of what was set to be his final Tour de France before retiring.
The Manxman, 38, was involved in an innocuous-looking crash 60km from the end of the race’s eighth stage – a 200.7km run from Libourne and Limoges.
Widely regarded as the greatest cycling sprinter of all time, Cavendish entered this year’s Tour level on a 34-stage victory alongside Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.
Jasper Philipsen denied him a record 35th stage victory during Friday’s episode.
Cavendish hit the deck after Pello Bilbao’s tires touched, before Mads Pedersen held off Philipsen in the long finish to win Saturday’s transitional stage.
He suffered a suspected broken collarbone and went in an ambulance, with his team Qazaqstan Astana confirming that he was forced to leave the race.
Mark Renshaw, who was Cavendish’s leading man from 2009-2011 and in 2016, and joined Astana as a sprint adviser before the Tour added: “Second yesterday, and today, that it happens to Mark . .. hard because we know his form here, we know he has legs.
“I’m not going to lie, I cried. Everyone on the team was hurt.”
Cavendish is the fifth rider to leave the Tour this year, following Enric Mas, Richard Carapaz, Jacopo Guarnieri and Luis Leon Sanchez.
Steff Cras, who was involved in a late pile-up with Simon Yates and Mikel Landa, ended up sixth, with all the withdrawals due to crashes.
It marked the seventh time from 14 appearances that Cavendish, who made his Tour debut in 2007, did not finish the race.
After a two-year absence, and not having won a Tour stage since 2016, he returned in 2021 to win four and move level with five-time Tour winner Merckx.
‘Everyone here wants him to win a stage’ – reaction from the peloton
Two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar: “When I heard about his race [Cavendish] it crashed it was a sad moment because he was in good shape. I think everyone here wants him to win a stage and yesterday he was very close. Bad moment.
“He was one of my favorites when we were kids. He was sprinting down the Champs-Elysees, we just wanted to have his style and his legs. They were great moments.”
Yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard: “I spoke to him a few times in my first Tour de France and again this year.
“He’s a super nice guy and I love seeing him get that 35th stage win. I remember when I was a kid and I used to watch him and all his celebrations. He’s my big idol. Shame on him and I hope he’s OK.”
Episode eight winner Mads Pedersen: “For me it’s a pleasure to ride with Mark Cavendish. I’ve always had a good relationship with him in the peloton. It’s very sad for a legend to end the Tour like this.
“He still owes me a jersey, for the jersey swap. Hopefully I can do some of the last races he did.”
Matt Warwick, BBC Sport
There have been some fairytale moments in Mark Cavendish’s career, and sole owner of the Tour stage victory record he shares with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx is looking more likely to be another.
He was beaten at the line last stage – his explosive, low-set style became more effective as the race wore on.
But a low-profile shunt in the middle of the peloton at relatively low speed appears to have ended one of the most high-profile and glittering affairs ever in this famous three-week race.
The 38-year-old has terrorized France’s opponents since 2008 with a spirited, no-nonsense approach to the game that lives up to his ‘Manx Missile’ nickname.
Cavendish says the record itself is less important to him – more his ability to fight, and win, in the moment.
And you can’t put a number on that.
What else happened on stage eight?
Pedersen, who won in Saint-Etienne during last year’s race, claimed his second stage victory in a Tour after benefiting from the outstanding work of his Lidl-Trek team in the closing kilometers.
But while Vingegaard retained the yellow jersey, a late crash saw British hopeful Simon Yates lose 47 seconds and drop from fourth to sixth in the general classification.
The incident saw him 21 seconds behind his twin Adam, who was fifth overall and currently the highest placed British rider.
On Sunday, the race travels 182.4km from Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat to the dormant volcano of Puy de Dome, where the steep final climb is expected to ignite another GC battle.
Results of the eighth period
1. Mads Pedersen (Den/Lidl-Trek) 4hrs 12mins 26secs
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel/Alpecin-Deceuninck) At the same time
3. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo-Visma)
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/Jayco-AlUla)
5. Nils Eekhoff (Ned/DSM)
6. Bryan Coquard (Fra/Cofidis)
7. Jasper De Buyst (Bel/Lotto-Dstny)
8. Rasmus Tiller (Nor/Uno-X)
9. Corbin Strong (NZ/Israel-Premier Tech)
10. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates)
General classification after the eighth period
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) 34hrs 09mins 38secs
2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +25secs
3. Jai Hindley (Aus/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1min 34sec
4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) +3mins 30secs
5. Adam Yates (GB/UAE Team Emirates) +3mins 40secs
6. Simon Yates (GB/Team Jayco-AlUla) +4mins 01secs
7. David Gaudu (Female/Groupama-FDJ) +4mins 03secs
8. Romain Bardet (Fra/DSM) +4mins 43secs
9. Thomas Pidcock (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) At the same time
10. Sepp Kuss (US/Jumbo-Visma) +5mins 28secs