It was a lot closer than everyone expected, but Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won a bunch sprint during a sweltering and windy Stage 13: Nimes > Carcassonne to win his fourth stage of the 2021 Tour de France — his 34th overall — tying him with the legendary Eddy Merckx.

Mark Cavendish Stage 13 Le Tour de France Sprint Eddy Merckx Ties Stage Win Record
Mark Cavendish edges out Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Michael Morkov (right) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) at the finish line to win Stage 13 of the 2021 Tour de France at Carcassonne. Cavendish tied Eddy Merckx with his 34th career stage win on Le Tour. (Image: Reuters)

With two more sprint stages remaining on the schedule, Cavendish has two more opportunities to pass Merck and set a new record with stage win #35. Two out of the last three stages are flat routes, which favor sprinters, including Stage 19: Mourenx > Libourne and Stage 21: Chatou > Paris.

All Cavendish must do now is to survive three mountain stages in the Pyrenees and avoid a crash before he gets another shot to break Merck’s record next weekend.

2021 Tour de France – Stage 13 Results
  1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 5:04:29
  2. Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
  3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)

Michael Morkov, the top lead-out man in the peloton, nearly spoiled the race for his teammate when he almost won Stage 13. Morkov slammed on the brakes to allow Cavendish to surge over the finish line first at Carcassonne.

Cavendish won three previous sprints at the 2021 Tour de France, including Stage 4, Stage 6, and Stage 10.

Stage 13: Nimes > Carcassonne

On a transition day that brought the peloton closer to the Pyrenees, Stage 13 featured a 220km route starting in Nimes and ending in Carcassonne, which is known for its medieval fort and towers.

The peloton fought pesty crosswinds earlier in the race and some riders struggled with loose gravel alongside narrow roads leading into Carcassonne. A couple of riders crashed and skidded into a ditch, including Simon Yates, who had to withdraw from Le Tour.

In the final, twisty four kilometers, Mattia Cattaneo from Deceuninck-QuickStep surged to the front of the peloton to set up Cavendish. Despite a crowded sprint in the final kilometer, Cavendish had Cattaneo and Morkov setting him up once again. The Manx Missile waited until the last possible second before he surged ahead of Morkov. Deceuninck-QuickStep finished one-two at Carcassonne.

“I’m so dead, 220km in that heat, in that wind,” said Cavendish moments after his Stage 13 victory. “I went deep there, I went so deep there. The boys were incredible. Can’t believe it.”

Cavendish held off Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) once again to secure his fourth stage win this year and tie Merckx with 34 total. Philipsen settled on a disappointing third place.

On Deck Stage 14: Ceret > Andorre-la-Vielle

On Saturday, the peloton faces a hilly Stage 14 during a 184 km ride from Ceret to Andorre-la-Vielle, which serves as a prelude for three insane mountain stages in the Pyrenees.

Stage 14 features a trio of Category 2 climbs and a pair of Category 3 climbs before a downhill finish at Andorre-la-Vielle. If there’s any big action, it will happen on the ascent of Col de Saint-Louis, which has a beast of a segment with a 12% gradient.

Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Julian Alaphilippe (DQS) are betting favorites heading into Stage 14, and both seeking a second stage win in 2021. Keep an eye on Omar Fraile, one of the top Spanish riders in the peloton at Astana-Premier Tech,who last won a stage back in 2018. Astana are one of the numerous teams that have yet to win a stage, so tomorrow could be Fraile’s day.

2021 Le Tour – Overall GC Standings
  1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 52:27:12
  2. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) +5:18
  3. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) +5:32
  4. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +5:33
  5. Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen Team) +5:58

Due to the flat sprint stage, the overall GC standings remained the same as yesterday. Ever since Tadej Pogacar seized the yellow jersey, this has become a race for second place. If you want to lay a ridiculous -1667 odds, you can win back $100 on Pogacar.

With the Pyrenees looming this weekend, there should be a good fight for second place among Rigoberto Uran, Jonas Vingegaard, Richard Carapaz, and Ben O’Connor. In case you’re feeling frisky or have a premonition that Pogacar crashes in the Pyrenees, you can back Vingegaard to win at +1400 odds, Carapaz at +2200, and Uran at +2800.

DraftKings updated their cycling prop bets. You can place a yes/no wager on a top-three finish for Carapaz at +100 odds for yes, and -140 odds for no.

Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.