It has long been a given that Mark Cavendish is the Tour de France's greatest ever sprinter, and when he won a record 35th stage on Wednesday he possibly proved that more to himself than to a long-convinced cycling public.

Now 39 and in his 15th Tour de France, Cavendish has overcome injuries, illnesses and years in the wilderness to shine as brightly as anyone could expect a man of his age to do.

He flew over the finish line way ahead of his rivals in the lush Rhone valley on Stage 5 on Wednesday, arms in the air, mouth agape in a victory cry.