The world’s top cyclists are almost a week in to this year’s Tour de France and Belgian Greg van Avermaet is the unlikely leader.
He is just over five minutes ahead of the rest after five stages, including the first over mountains.
Two-time winner Chris Froome is sitting in fifth with just six seconds between him and second place.
But the big talk of the early stages is the Isle of Man’s Mark Cavendish, who dashed home to win his 29th all-time stage and the third in this year’s race.
The win takes Cavendish past stage wins collected by another Frenchman Barnard Hinault on 28, leaving the legendary Belgian Eddie Merckx’s lifetime haul of 34 stage wins his remaining challenge.
Cavendish goes for record
“I doubt anyone thought that when I started cycling I would have my name mentioned in line with the greats like Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx. It’s pretty amazing,” said Cavendish.
Cavendish is riding in his 10th Tour, but has never won and admits he is unlikely to do so.
He was a track specialist who concerted to road racing, and although he has devastating speed, he lacks the stamina to compete over hiller sections of the Tour.
Hinault won the race in 1978, 1979, 1981,1982 and 1985. He came second in 1984 and 1986. He is the last French rider to win.
To show how Cavendish dominates sprint racing in the Tour, his nearest rivals are Greipel, who has amassed 10 stage wins in his career and Marcel Kittel, who has eight wins to his name.
The Tour will end in Paris on July 24 with a procession into the city and a sprint along the Champs-Elysees after winding around the country and through Switzerland.
At this stage of the race, a lot can happen to decide who wears the coveted yellow jersey.
The current leader board is:
- Greg van Avermaet (Belgium) 30h 18′ 38”
- Julian Alaphilippe (France) +5mins 11secs
- Alejandro Valverde (Spain) +5mins 13secs
- Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) +5mins 15secs
- Chris Froome (Britain) +5mins 17secs
- Warren Barguil (France) same time
- Pierre Rolland (France) same time
- Fabio Aru (Italy) same time
- Nairo Quintana (Columbia) same time
- Daniel Martin (Ireland) same time