Denmark’s Mads Pedersen overpowered the pack to sprint to victory on Stage 8 in Limoges, denying Jasper Philipsen a fourth stage win of the 2023 Tour de France.
Wout van Aert came home third, his challenge scuppered after being blocked in by his own Jumbo-Visma teammate, Christophe Laporte.
The stage was marred by the crash suffered by Mark Cavendish 60 km from the finish, which forced him to abandon his final Tour de France – and his bid for a record 35th stage victory – with a suspected broken collarbone.
Yellow jersey-wearer Jonas Vingegaard and key rival Tadej Pogačar came home safely in the peloton, but Simon Yates lost 47 seconds in a crash roughly 6 km from the line.
Belgium’s Steff Cras, who was 13th in the General Classification, was also forced to abandon after crashing in the same incident as Yates.
Cruel end for Cavendish
The episode marks a bitterly disappointing end to the 38-year-old Manxman’s legendary Tour de France career given his planned retirement at the end of this season, robbing him of the opportunity to surpass the record of 34 stage wins he shares with Eddy Merckx.
Having struggled to challenge on the first few bunch sprints of the Tour, the incident will sting all the more given how close Cavendish came to the record-breaking victory on Stage 7 before agonizingly being edged out on the line by Jasper Philipsen.
Nonetheless, Cavendish will go down as undoubtedly the greatest sprinter in the history of the Tour de France.
“It’s beautiful to win at the Tour”
“We didn’t know this morning if it would be a break or a sprint. The sprinters didn’t want to let the break go,” said stage winner Mads Pedersen at the finish line.
“My boys [Team Lidl-Trek] gave me the perfect lead out. Even with a long sprint, I still had the legs to finish it off. It’s good to win a stage earlier than on Stage 13 last year!
“When I passed the line, I knew I had won.
“It was a long sprint. The final stretch was very painful. I was very close to [sitting] up with 50 meters to go. Jasper [Philipsen] had to do a great sprint to overtake me. Yet it doesn’t matter winning by a large margin or by a small one.
“Regardless of this, it’s beautiful to win at the Tour.”
“It’s so sad for a legend to finish the Tour like this”
“For me, it was a pleasure to be able to ride with Mark Cavendish,” said Pedersen in reaction to confirmation of the Manxman’s abandonment.
“I always had a good relationship with him in the peloton. It’s so sad for a legend to finish the Tour like this.
“He still owes me a jersey, for a jersey swap! Hopefully, I can do some of the last races he does [before his retirement].”
Yellow jersey favorites Vingegaard and Pogačar joined Pedersen in paying tribute to Cavendish.
“When I heard in the race he had crashed, it was a sad moment because he was in good shape,” said Pogačar. “I think everybody here wanted him to win one stage, and yesterday he was super close. It’s a bad moment.
“He was one of my favorites when we were kids. Him sprinting on the Champs-Élysées, we just wanted to have his style and his legs. They were good moments.”
Vingegaard, meanwhile, commented that he was “very sad to hear about Mark Cavendish.”
“I spoke with him a few times in my first Tour de France, and again this year. He is a super nice guy and I would have loved to have seen him take the 35th stage win.
“I still remember when I was a kid and I was watching him and all his celebrations. He was my big idol. It is really a shame for him, and I hope he is okay.”
Tour de France 2023: Stage 8 Results
1. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek/DEN): 4:12:26
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck/BEL): Same time
3. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma/BEL): Same time
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla/NED): Same time
5. Nils Eekhoff (DSM/NED): Same time
6. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis/FRA): Same time
7. Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Dstny/BEL): Same time
8. Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X/NOR): Same time
9. Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech/NZ): Same time
10. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates/SLO): Same time
Tour de France 2023: General Classification After Stage 6
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): 34:09:38
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates/SLO): + 25 secs
3. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe/AUS): + 1 min, 34 secs
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers/SPA): + 3 mins, 30 secs
5. Adam Yates (UAE-Emirates/GB): + 3 mins, 40 secs
6. Simon Yates (Team Jayco-AlUla/GB): + 4 mins, 01 secs
7. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ/FRA): + 4 mins, 3 secs
8. Romain Bardet (DSM/FRA): + 4 mins, 43 secs
9. Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers/GB): Same time
10. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma/USA): + 5 mins, 28 secs