The role of fortune is one of the key themes in one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, King Lear. The characters believe that they are the subject of forces beyond their control, not their decisions. They believe their destinies are preconceived, that there is little they can do to alter their course, to write their own narrative. After being blinded for no good reason, Gloucester exclaims: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport.” There’s seemingly a world without order, where only good luck and fortune allow someone to muddle through. It is up to the gods to decide how things fall, not the actions of humans.

Fortune is a big part of any success in sport, but it has taken an extraordinary series of improbable events to even bring Mark Cavendish to this Tour de France, let alone win a stage. The Manx sprinter told reporters after the stage that he did not think he would ever be back at the biggest bike race in the world. The path that has opened up for Cavendish, which started with a last-ditch off-season transfer to Deceuninck-Quick Step and culminated in the final acceleration that took him past Jasper Philipsen has involved a whole series of unlikely events, each leading to the next.

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