TalkingShop: Hayles & Cavendish making a Killer team

Madison World Champions Rob Hayles & Mark Cavendish together as a team again ahead of momentous season

Larry Hickmott talks to Rob Hayles who has a new role in helping best friend Mark Cavendish cope with the demands of being such a high profile athlete.

For well over a decade, Rob Hayles has been one of the best cyclists in the World, winning World Championship and Olympic medals but last year, after the British Hill Climb Championships, the former Endura Racing rider retired.

A few years ago now but this was Rob Hayles and Mark Cavendish as a team on the bike…

It wasn’t as if he was going to get bored though as Rob for some time has been a smiling happy face on TV at cycling events and he was straight on it at the Revolution track opens, in front of the cameras again.

Rob though, who has a lot of experience as a professional on the track and road, was also helping a young teammate of his from the World Championships in 2005, Mark Cavendish. Back then, the two combined in a killer partnership to lap the field in the World Madison Championship and Cav, at 19, had his first set of rainbow stripes.  He won it again in 2008 with Bradley Wiggins but the real big one was winning the rainbow stripes for the World Road Race Championship with the help of seven other British riders in 2011.

What followed was his move to team Sky ahead of what is a momentous year for the sport in Britain. For Cavendish, who has never been so popular on this side of the channel, the pressure is on to show off the rainbow stripes well before the Tour de France comes around and if ever there was a team that can help him do that, it’s Sky. But, there is more.

In a recent interview with VeloUK, Alex Dowsett explained how on a training camp, the ‘training effect’ is better than at home because on a training camp, he rests more.  So what if that training camp could be moved back home and he was able to rest as much as he would on a training camp.

Well, for Mark Cavendish, that is where Rob Hayles comes in. Both Rob and Mark had spoken about teaming up during last year and their ‘working’ together has come about in a very Rob Hayles casual sort of way! In fact it would unkind to call it work because Rob and Cav are such mates and have been for so long that it isn’t a ‘job’ for Rob. He’s just helping out a mate who needs to be looked after such is the demand on his time after such a big year winning the Green jersey, the rainbow jersey and of course, Sports Personality of the Year.

2005 and Rob helps Mark come to terms with  the fact he’s a World Champion at 19.

It is though an important  ‘job’ for Rob as he helps the World Road Champion make the most of his training and time in Britain. Rob was on his way to choose some wall paper for Mark Cavendish when we spoke whereas the day before, he’d been helping Mark get to London and back for a press conference and doing the little things like preparing his bike ready for photo calls while Mark was dealing with the interviews.

The aim says Rob, is to make life at home more like a training camp for Mark where he can cut out the unnecessary jobs Mark may have had to do so he can get the required recovery time after training.

“The reason you get such good form from training camps, a lot of it isn’t that you are training that much harder but also the fact you’re resting because you’re away from home where you might think I have to do this or that. That’s why I loved training camps because of the rest” says Rob.

“Pretty much most of the time he is in the UK, I’m with him” Rob says. Even when Cav isn’t in the country, Rob is still there looking after his friend and while Mark is Majorca for a training camp next week, Rob will be heading to the Isle of Man to get some things for Cav as well as putting the finishing touches to a ‘scooter’ he’ll be using to go out training with Cav. All this is being done while Cav is away so that when he returns, everything is ready to go again with the training.

Rob explained that when the winds came and riding outside was dangerous, he’d got his turbo trainer out for Mark as he had little use for it anymore (smile!) and he’d written him a little programme for the hours work to be done.  Now, Rob is not Mark’s coach and was keen to stress that Rod Ellingworth is the main man when it comes to getting the best from Mark on the bike. But Rob is privy to the training that Rod sets Mark which enables him to help out when required like on the turbo.

As it happens, while I was writing this, the following from Mark pops up on my Twitter feed … “2nd session of the day on the turbo trainer. Lacking a bit of motivation.  Rob Hayles just said “you’ll be glad of it on Cipressa in March.” It would seem the ‘Killer’ touch was again being used on the turbo.

Rob admits he needed to be doing other stuff outside of the media work and his working with Cav fits into his schedule really well. The only clash he says will come around the time of Gent Wevelgem when Rob will be in Australia for the Track Worlds but he says that’s fine because the team will take care of anything that needs to be done.

2006 Commonwealth Games and their bond is easy see …

Forming a partnership with Mark Cavendish who is being pushed and pulled this way and that way  is more than just down to Rob’s experience but also the fact they get on so well. That has to be the case simply because Rob is living in the house with Mark and looking at the ‘tweets’ from Mark’s partner Peta Todd, the two ‘kids’ are getting on a like a house on fire.

For such an important year, looking after Cav says Rob, is a priority over other bits of work he may be doing.  Their bond began way back before they won World titles together as they toured the World for GB going to World Cups and Six day events preparing for that day when both of them would earn their stripes and then cashing in on that success.

What the two share is way beyond a working relationship. When Mark is Manchester, he’ll stay with Rob rather than a hotel because being with Rob gives him that ‘normality’ of being out with mates rather than alone in a hotel.

Rob can also be relied on to do things without Mark even asking because he knows what it’s like to be a professional bike rider and a father. So whether it’s taking the mudguards off Cav’s bike ready for a photo shoot or doing some work on the nursery, Rob is ‘the’ man.

What Rob has can’t be made or learnt – it comes from years of being on the circuit and living life as he has. So from choosing wallpaper to knowing the importance of motor pacing, Rob knows what is required. “Even if I’m not pacing him, it’s good to be there just to be a riding partner and look after him, keep him safe and do what needs to be done” explains Rob.

Rob gets  a hug from Cav at his retirement party at Revolution

Again, in the last interview with Alex Dowsett, he spoke of the motor pacing they do nowadays. It isn’t new because I was doing the same in 1981 prior to a big stage race in Australia but to be motor paced, you do need someone with experience and Rob has that too.

“For Cav, he races that much, I see the motor pacing more as a controlling thing with him than actually pulling him out. I know Cav has done this before the Tour last year and also before the Worlds.  I’ve also done a lot of this with Dave (Millar) in time trialling and it’s so useful. The amount of power you put out is actually more than you would normally but the perception of effort is actually less and it has a lot more of that racy feel to it.”

Listening to Rob, even over a crackling mobile phone ‘line’, I can sense just how happy he is. And why not because as he says “I can’t believe my luck. I feel I deserve it but bloody hell, I can’t believe I am in this position now. This time last year I was wondering what I was going to be doing and I’m loving what I have now.”

And who wouldn’t? Rob is still living the dream that’s for sure! And it is deserved because not only is Rob a ‘great bloke’, a mate to be proud of as those who know him will testify, but when you’re World Champion and have the focus of the public and media attention, who better to have on your side than someone who has been there and done it. There probably is no one better … as the headline says, they are a killer combination.

Interviews from VeloUK

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