"I had no idea you were going to be this good this soon." rob hayles
"I did." mark cavendish.
i'm not much one for the cycling strategy as it pertains to the professional peloton. that is what brian smith and robert millar are for. my job, as i see it, is simply to sit on the sidelines like the rest of you, watching all unfold from afar and pointing out why i would never have done that. something akin to my father's armchair football antics. for even if i subsequently repeat my moans in pixels, i live too far away for any of you to throw things at me.
thus, the combination of bradley wiggins and mark cavendish in the one team was likely something doomed to failure from the start. i have undertaken some tentative research to discover which of the two was signed first; recollection would have it that cavendish signed upon the dotted line before bradley. this would, i think likely, have given him the confidence that here was an entire team at his disposal for perhaps the longest leadout train in living memory. no doubt peta had already cleared an appropriate space in the wardrobe for the tour's green jersey. then along came brad (if i have the signings in the wrong order, it only lends credence to my opening contention.)
history would teach us that having a gc contender and a jersey possible in the same team was never going to be a good idea; cast your mind back to the telekom team of the late nineties, when ullrich was vying with lance and marco for top step on the podium, all the while dealing with the disparity that zabel had his eye constantly on green. from the point of view of a win in paris, whatever regard in which we now hold big tex, his 'one for all and one for all' strategy was/is the undoubted singular way to put the other teams on the backfoot.
whichever way the signings proceeded, cavendish would have realised that his green ambitions would be of secondary importance. assuming bradley was in the ideal position to own yellow into paris, there would be few opportunities to construct an appropropriate lead-out train for mark. it is, of course, rather of academic interest as of now. though i have read that wiggins has stated his unwillingness to try and defend his tour title in 2013, mark cavendish has already left the sky fold to keep tomke company at omega pharma quick-step where his jersey aspirations will likely be taken into greater consideration. or, at least i assume that his knowledge of team strategy will have had such incorporated into his contract.
in all the adulation that has been fired in the direction of bradley wiggins, the achievements of mark cavendish have surely been overshadowed since those three weeks in july. impressive stage wins in this year's edition, one of which was the record breaking and simultaneously breathtaking fourth consecutive victory on the champs elysees, would generally have been sufficient to put a shine on anyone's helmet, but all the features and pictures and tour specials that invaded the daily papers, the comic and the cycling monthlies were (perhaps quite naturally) of a yellow hue. the much vaunted olympic victory in the road race was somewhat doomed from the start, after team gb effectively telegraphed the day's tactics in advance.
i cannot but mention that it seems a tad naive to blame the other nations for subsequently riding defensively and failing to support cavendish in his golden yearnings.
as a lifelong robert millar fan, it is the true grimpeurs that hold my attention. a tiny bit of my insides finds the role of the sprinter to be one of the less admirable niches in contemporary cycle sport. it is (for me) hard to admire a rider who specifically depends on at least three or four other team-mates to get to the line first. however, while watching mark cavendish - born to race, i cannot but admit to a sense of admiration as cavendish left all others trailing in his wake. yet, such moments are few and far between in this truly excellent dvd documentary.
i have little doubt that an intensive trawling of youtube would find any number of re-runs of cavendish crossing the line at speed with two arms held aloft. his almost surprising win in the 2011 milan-sanremo is one that bears repetition without ever becoming tired. cavendish may well be the self-styled fastest man in the world, but like super mario in his day, he rarely misses the opportunity to back it up. born to race however, shows an entirely different mark cavendish; a man with a comfortable lifestyle. a lovely wife and baby and who trains behind a world championship branded and signed motorbike under the spirited control of rob hayles.
the latter comes across as the true father figure in the sense that dave brailsford does not. cavendish recalls his youthful days in the isle of man cycling club under the watchful eye of mike kelly, a man he thought well enough of to present with a signed world championship jersey, even after all the years that intervened. his personality is considerably more intelligent and considerate than his on-bike, occasionally arrogant persona would suggest, to the extent of exhibiting obsessive compulsive symptoms in regard to packing his suitcase and the positioning of mugs in his capacious kitchen cupboards. hayles apparently delights in turning the kettle the wrong way round in order to wind him up.
it will be interesting to see how cavendish moves forward on having separated from his sprint aides; bernhard eisel and rob hayles, for though this film is all about cavendish, rob hayles' role in his sporting life is well made. to his credit, cavendish did not seem simply resigned to his secondary role in team sky's tour team, but quietly and logically in acceptance, bearing no ill will to either bradley or brailsford. though this bears the mark of a true professional, i'm not sure that were i in his shoes, i would have been quite so docile about the fact.
times have changed sufficiently that cyclists, particularly of late, british cyclists, are no longer seens simply as boys with their carbon toys, playing in the backyards of europe. cavendish's accession to the bbc sports personality of the year throne could be possibly marked out as the beginning of the beginning, where those racing on two wheels began to be accepted on the same level as golfers, footballers, cricketers and the more traditional british sportsperson. such celebrity brings with it the demanding trappings associated with all facets of the thrust-upon. the documentary shows cavendish enjoying rather than enduring a clothing photoshoot for esquire magazine, all the while being well spoken of by his pr representatives, claire louise and simon. i would think there is many a celebrity who causes far more grief for their pr people than does cavendish.
many are called upon to testify to cavendish's personality and work ethic, both in relation to contemporary times and that of his career to date: bradley wiggins, the aforementioned rob hayles, dave brailsford, rod ellingworth, mike kelly, geraint thomas and peter kennaugh. mrs cavendish, better known as peta todd is particularly self-effacing; they make for a remarkably ordinary couple, despite the trappings that come with two succesful and lucrative careers. and it perhaps goes without saying that both are dedicated to the wellbeing of their newborn daughter's future.
cavendish mentions that other riders told him that once he had a child, he'd find it harder to spend weeks at a time away from home, but on the contrary, he says that this has made him all the more determined to spend those times doing everything in favour of delilah. as he correctly points out, it's his job and he'd be away from home anyway; this gives him an even greater sense of purpose. that being the case, it would seem prudent to keep an eye on omega pharma quick-step in 2013.
though commencing his career on the road, the early years were filled with substantial success on the track, particularly memorable for his uci world championship win in the madison with partner bradley wiggins. as one of the few tipped riders to walk away from the 2012 olympic games without any colour of medal, cavendish makes known his ambition to join the track team as brailsford's other boys commence training for rio de janeiro in 2016. and despite my misgivings over the amount of media attention paid towards bradley wiggins, deservedly or otherwise, the man himself comes across remarkably well during his few cameo interviews. he genuinely seems embarrassed that the whole of team sky's tour team was placed at his disposal, rather than diverting their attentions occasionally towards cavendish.
it is not entirely unnatural that we judge our cycling stars by the way we see them perform on the track or on the road. that's their job after all; they are a part of the entertainment industry. however, in much the way that certain comedians are found to be humourously wanting when not on stage and far away from a script, we have no right to expect anything of these athletes when they are off-duty. mark cavendish is a credit to his profession in every conceivable way; yes, he can come across as arrogant or belligerent on the bike, but it's unlikely he'd own such an illustrious palmares were the situation otherwise.
a reviewer is often placed in something of an awkward situation. in order to maintain a level of fairness and equanimity, i find myself reviewing books and dvds that i'd perhaps be unlikely to choose if left to my own devices. i'm happy to admit that mark cavendish - born to race would not have been my first choice of dvd for christmas, in which case i would have been extremely remiss, for it is truly an excellent documentary that ought to be watched by everyone with an interest in cycling and probably a substantial number who patently are not. though i may be at risk of airing my prejudices in public, i think it unlikely that a similar portrait of a top footballer would a) have lasted the 83 minutes that born to race manages, and b) proved such an intelligent and entertaining hour and twenty-three minutes.
that's one of your christmas presents sorted.
"if you could have won an olynpic medal in any discipline other than cycling, which would it have been?
"women's beach volleyball."
'mark cavendish-born to race' is available from monday november 5th on universal pictures dvd for only £13.99
wednesday 31st october 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................