With Mark Cavendish claiming his first Tour de France stage win way back in 2008, there have been some interesting and very significant developments in road bike design since. It's testament to Cav's long and remarkable career that he was winning before disc brakes, aero bikes and electronic gears were even properly a thing, and his last record-equalling victory in 2021 (there won't be another unless a significant U-turn happens) was claimed on a bike with features that would have been inconceivable to most roadies in the late 2000s.
Rather than speculate on whether Cavendish will return to the Tour for another crack at getting that 35th stage win to surpass Eddy Merckx, in this article we're just looking at the bikes he's raced throughout his career that have contributed to that staggering tally of 34 Le Tour stage wins.
Cavendish has won Tour de France stages for six different WorldTour teams in his professional cycling career, and 2023 marks his 18th year in the pro peloton, riding for Astana Qazaqstan.
These transitions to different teams have seen him riding 10 different race bikes over the years, seven of which have been ridden to a stage win at the Tour de France. This year, Cavendish rode a special edition white marble and gold Wilier Filante SLR TDF23, but how does this compare to his first race bike, a Giant TCR Advanced SL?
A Giant TCR Advanced was Cavendish's first race bike back in 2005, but the German-registered T-Mobile team changed their name to Team High Road in 2008. With this came a new kit and a new version of the TCR Advanced.
The Tour de France is no stranger to prototype bikes, and the bike Cavendish used for his first Tour de France stage victory was a prototype Giant TCR Advanced SL, which was said to be lighter and stiffer than the previous TCR Advanced.
It had a non-aero frame equipped with the latest Shimano groupset at the time - Dura-Ace 7800 - which was 10-speed mechanical and considered by many to be the best groupset ever made at the time.
Despite only being at this Tour for the first 13 stages so he could go home early to focus on training for the 2008 Olympics, Cavendish rode this bike to four stage wins.
Moving away from his trusty Giant, Cavendish headed into 2009 on a Scott Addict, one of the lightest road bikes you could buy at the time with a sub-1kg frame.
Designed to be as light and stiff as possible, this was Scott's most highly advanced carbon race bike at the time. Team Columbia-HTC used the standard Addict frame and fork.
Most of the team's sponsors remained the same, so Cavendish continued to use Dura-Ace wheels and a Dura-Ace 7800 groupset, despite the latest generation Dura-Ace 7900 being released mid-season.
The bike was clearly good and so was Cavendish, riding to six stage wins in 2009, his highest number of stage wins at one Tour.
2010 saw Cavendish at the same team aboard the same bike, and he added a further five stage wins to his palmares.
For his final season with HTC-Highroad in 2011, Cavendish transitioned to an aero-optimised race bike developed with McLaren over five years.
The newly-released Specialized McLaren Venge was Specialized's flagship aero machine, a bike made for speed that was a sign of things to come over the next decade.
Another big change this year was the switch from mechanical shifting to an electronic groupset, with Cavendish riding Shimano's 2009 Dura-Ace Di2 groupset offering enhanced shifting performance.
Teams these days are more selective with their sponsors, with many groupset manufacturers also providing the wheels and finishing kits. This wasn't the case for Cavendish in 2011, and he had a lot going on with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and hub, Zipp rims (Zipp was already owned by SRAM, a rival to Shimano, at this stage), SRM power meter and an oversized stem and handlebars from PRO.
This combination must have worked for Cav as it was another successful year for him, picking up five stage wins and the green jersey at the Tour de France and becoming World Champion on the road.
In 2012, Cavendish rode to three Tour de France stage victories alongside Bradley Wiggins, who became the first British rider to win Tour de France. Riding for Team Sky, Cav's bike was a Pinarello Dogma 2 rather than the Dogma 65.1 that was launched just before the start of the Tour de France.
The most distinctive features of this bike were the wavy chainstays, seatstays and fork legs, that Pinarello said resulted in improved vibration damping.
Cavendish's bike was equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 and an SRM power meter. The wheels are Shimano Dura-Ace too, in the form of the C50 tubulars.
His saddle of choice was the Fizik Arione CX with braided carbon rails, and you'll also notice the rainbow bands on the frame announcing Cav’s status as World Champion.
2013 saw Cav reacquainted with the Specialized McLaren Venge, riding for the Belgian Omega Pharma-Quickstep team and winning two stages of the Tour de France, as well as a British national title that year.
The Venge had only been launched two years earlier so the frame itself was the same, but as the team had different sponsors, much of the equipment was different.
Going back to a mechanical groupset, Cavendish was now using SRAM Red rather than Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, coupled with a Quarq power meter rather than SRM.
He was using Zipp wheels and a Zipp stem, switching from his signature PRO stem.
Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France in 2014, but returned in 2015 to win one stage.
Still riding for the Belgian super-team Quickstep, Cav now rode a Specialized Venge ViAS. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but was a big leap forward in aerodynamics compared to most road racing bikes we'd seen before it. This was Specialized's all-out pursuit of making the fastest bike possible.
It had custom brakes and an integrated front-end, with Specialized claiming it was 120 seconds faster than a Tarmac SL4 over 40km. Some riders found the brakes were difficult to set up, although we had no complaints about the stopping power when we reviewed the bike.
The Venge ViAS was complete with a Shimano finishing kit and Specialized's Roval Rapide CLX60 wheels. Cav was also back using Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 with an SRM power meter.
In 2016, Cavendish rode for Team Dimension Data aboard a Cervelo S5. With it came four stage wins and a day in the yellow jersey.
Cervelo pioneered aero road bikes, launching the Soloist way back in 2002, and the current S5 is claimed to be one of the fastest aero bikes ever made.
The brand developed its own aero-optimised carbon handlebar for the S5 which was said to be responsible for a significant reduction in drag, but Cav wasn’t using it. Instead, he was using a bar from Pro with electrical tape stuck over the logos.
It was complete with Enve wheels and stem, a Dura-Ace Di2 groupset (the 9070 series) and Rotor’s 3D Power chainset with 170mm crank arms and noQ round chainrings.
2019 was the year that Cav first raced on a disc brake bike, the BMC TimeMachine, but his first Tour de France stage-winning disc brake bike was a Specialized Tarmac SL7. This bikes is only available with disc brakes.
2021 saw Cav return to his old Quickstep team and reunited with a Specialized bike. The Tarmac SL7 inherits some of its aero features from the Venge, but in a much lighter package.
This was the year that saw one of Cav's - and arguably sport's - greatest comebacks, with four stage wins to equal Merckx's record of 34 stage victories.
Cavendish’s bike was fitted with a Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 11-speed groupset. Even though the 12-speed, semi-wireless Shimano Dura-Ace 9200 was released that same summer, the 11-speed version is still a huge step change from the 10-speed mechanical groupset he started on over a decade earlier.
Specialized also provided the team with wheels, and Cavendish used Roval Rapide CLX. Also from Specialized is the S-Works Power with Mirror saddle.
Cav wasn't selected for the Tour de France in 2022 and sadly, he was forced to abandon this year's Tour whilst riding his Wilier Filante SLR in a custom finish. Will he be back for one final, final shot at the Tour de France stage wins record in 2024?
Which of Cav's Tour de France stage-winning bikes is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below...
Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.
Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…