July 06, 2011
Cavendish: Great sprinter, or greatest sprinter?
Over at The Inner Ring, they're discussing whether Cavendish is the greatest sprinter of all time. He's certainly the greatest Tour sprinter of our time. In the time I've been following the Tour (since the late '80s), there's never been a sprinter so dominant in the Tour over 3+ seasons.
Petacchi won 4 stages in 2003, then went 7 years before taking a pair last year. Cipollini won stages every year from 1995-99, and 4 in 1999, but wasn't invited from 2000-2003, so he ended his career with 12 Tour stage wins. Boonen has won 2 stages in three different Tours. McEwen won two or three stages in each of 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006 (12 in total), but he was shut out in 2003.
The sprinter who came nearest to matching Cav's Tour record in recent memory was probably Tom Steels, who won 9 stages in three Tours from 1998-2000. In Cav's last three complete Tours, he's won FIFTEEN. And as he showed today, he blends Petacchi's finishing speed with McEwen's positional savvy.
In the days Before Cavendish, picking a sprint stage was about throwing a dart at which of the guys with a good finishing kick would be on a good day or get a great leadout. Given 4 choices, you would probably hit one or two podium spots. Today, if it's a sprinter's stage, you're crazy to pick against Cavendish. That's how dominant he has been.
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