Mark Cavendish’s bid to take a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage win is over after he was forced to abandon the race following a crash on Saturday.

Less than 24 hours after he came within a few metres of an historic victory in Bordeaux, Cavendish left what he has said will be his final Tour in the back of an ambulance, on his way to hospital in Perigueux with a suspected broken collarbone.

A seemingly innocuous touch of wheels brought an early end to his last appearance in the race he loves, with Cavendish braking to avoid an incident in front but hitting the deck around 60km from the finish of stage eight from Libourne to Limoges, unable to get up as he held his shoulder in agony.

Mads Pedersen took the stage win, powering up the slight rise to the line and holding on to deny the hard-charging Jasper Philipsen a fourth victory of this Tour, but there was only a muted sense of celebration afterwards, with Philipsen paying an eloquent tribute to the master sprinter.

“For me it was a pleasure to be able to race with Mark,” the former world champion said. “I always had a good relationship with him in the peloton. It’s so sad that such a legend has to finish the Tour like this…

“I wish all the best for Mark. Hopefully I can do the last race he’s going to do to honour a legend who stops in cycling.”

Cavendish’s former team-mate Mark Renshaw, brought in by the Astana-Qazaqstan team as a consultant to help a team with little sprinting pedigree prior to Cavendish’s arrival this year, admitted to crying in the team car when he realised it was over for his friend.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said: “It is an emotional day. He was so sad just after the fall. He is the best sprinter in the history of the Tour de France and he wanted to try to win the 35th stage.

“He was second yesterday and for two or three seconds we thought he would succeed in his goal, and today it’s over. He is sad, we are sad, the Tour de France is sad.”

It means Cavendish, who announced in May that he will retire at the end of the season, will finish his career level with Eddy Merckx on 34 Tour stage wins – barring a decision to keep racing.

Cavendish was agonisingly close to breaking the record on Friday, getting the jump on Philipsen on the sprint to the line in Bordeaux, only for his gears to skip when he was trying to apply full power.

While hugely disappointed, Cavendish afterwards spoke optimistically regarding his form and that of his team, saying “I think so” when asked if he had the shape to win.

France Cycling Tour de FranceMark Cavendish had been soaking up the admiration of fans during his final Tour (Daniel Cole/AP)

It is not just the opportunity of the record that Cavendish – who moved level with Merckx in 2021 – has lost with Saturday’s crash.

His love affair with the Tour began before he won his first stage back in 2008 and he could be seen throughout the opening week taking the opportunity to soak up the admiration of fans at the roadside.

In recent years when it came to finding new teams, and battling illness and depression, Cavendish fought to end his storied career on his terms, and the timing of his retirement announcement in May was made with the Tour in mind.

Whether he had taken a stage win or not, Cavendish would have loved to have ridden into Paris one final time, but that moment is now gone.

As Pedersen celebrated the win, Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar and Jai Hindley all finished in the front group to ensure no change at the top of the general classification before Sunday’s stage on the Puy de Dome, but Simon Yates lost 47 seconds after a late crash.

That saw the Lancastrian drop from fourth to sixth overall, with brother Adam up to fifth.