Mark Cavendish?s two Giro d?Italia stage wins have come a few days either side of his 23rd birthday, in only his second full season in the professional ranks.

It takes a special and prodigious talent to make such a dramatic breakthrough in such a short space of time.

Here we look back over the past 19 years at the five men who have dominated grand tour sprinting and see how the two current sensations ? Cavendish and his current rival Daniele Bennati ? compare.

Mario Cipollini was the first sprinting superstar and the only one of our seven riders to win a grand tour stage in his first season as a professional. He won at the Giro d?Italia in 1989 and went on to win a total of 57 stages in the three grand tours.

Erik Zabel took a couple of seasons to get off the mark and his final tally of 20 grand tour stages may be dwarfed by Cipollini but for a spell in the mid-1990s the German was every bit the equal of the Italian.

They were chalk and cheese ? the flamboyant showman against the reserved German but they dominated the sprints at the Tour in that period.

Then came Alessandro Petacchi, a man who had only one win of any kind in his first four years as a professional.

But as soon as he joined Giancarlo Ferretti?s Fassa Bortolo squad he started winning grand tour stages, at the age of 26.

Aussie Robbie McEwen rightly lay claim to being the fastest in the world in 2005 and 2006 and he?s not done yet. He quit this year?s Giro d?Italia as it entered the mountains but he?ll be back at the Tour hoping to add to his haul of 24 grand tour stage wins.

Next come the current crop. Tom Boonen is a green jersey contender in the Zabel mould, not as prolific, he?s yet to win more than two stages at a single tour.

That leaves Bennati and Cavendish, who have each broken through in the past year.

Bennati won two stages in the final week of last year?s Tour de France, then three more at the Vuelta and has so far added three at the Giro. There?s no doubt he?s fast.

But Cavendish has shown that when he gets his approach right, he is the fastest in the world.

And the reason he?s on course for greatness is that he notched his first grand tour stage win at the age of just 22. It took Zabel until he was 25, Petacchi and Bennati were 26, McEwen was 27 when they got off the mark.

Of the greatest sprinters of the past 20 years, only Mario Cipollini won at an earlier age, taking his first Giro stage a couple of months after his 22nd birthday.

A new dynasty is born: Cavendish versus Bennati is a clash we?re likely to see for a few years to come

MARIO CIPOLLINI

Turned pro
1989 with Del Tongo, aged 21

First pro win
Stage three 1989 Giro di Puglia, aged 22

First grand tour stage win
Stage 12 1989 Giro d?Italia, aged 22

Total grand tour stage wins
57 ? (42 Giro, 12 Tour, 3 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
6 ? 2002 Giro d?Italia

ERIK ZABEL

Turned pro
1993 with Telekom, aged 22

First pro win
Stage one 1993 Tirreno-Adriatico, aged 22

First grand tour stage win
Stage six 1995 Tour de France, aged 25

Total grand tour stage wins
20 ? (0 Giro, 12 Tour, 8 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
3 ? 1997 Tour, 2001 Tour and 2001 Vuelta

ALESSANDRO PETACCHI

Turned pro
1996 with Scrigno, aged 22

First pro win
Stage six 1998 Tour of Langkawi, aged 24

First grand tour stage win
Stage eight 2000 Vuelta a Espana, aged 26

Total grand tour stage wins
44* ? (Giro 21*, Tour 4, Vuelta 19)
? Petacchi was stripped of three of his 2007 Giro d?Italia stage wins, which have been deducted from his total

Record haul in a single grand tour
9 ? 2004 Giro d?Italia

ROBBIE McEWEN

Turned pro
1996 with Rabobank, aged 23

First pro win
Stage four 1996 Tour of Murcia, aged 23

First grand tour stage win
Stage 20 1999 Tour de France, aged 27

Total grand tour stage wins
24 ? (12 Giro, 12 Tour, 0 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
3 ? 2005 Giro, 2005 Tour, 2006 Giro and 2006 Tour

TOM BOONEN

Turned pro
2002 with US Postal Service, aged 21

First pro win
Stage two 2002 Uniqa Classic, aged 21

First grand tour stage win
Stage six 2004 Tour de France, aged 23

Total grand tour stage wins
6 ? (0 Giro, 6 Tour, 0 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
2 ? 2004 Tour, 2005 Tour, 2007 Tour

DANIELE BENNATI

Turned pro
2002 with Acqua & Sapone, aged 21

First pro win
Stage one 2002 Austria Tour, aged 21

First grand tour stage win
Stage 17 2007 Tour de France, aged 26

Total grand tour stage wins
8 ? (3 Giro, 2 Tour, 3 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
3 ? 2007 Vuelta, 2008 Giro

MARK CAVENDISH

Turned pro
2007 with T-Mobile, aged 21

First pro win
2007 Scheldeprijs, aged 21

First grand tour stage win
Stage four 2008 Giro d?Italia, aged 22

Total grand tour stage wins
2 ? (2 Giro, 0 Tour, 0 Vuelta)

Record haul in a single grand tour
2 ? 2008 Giro