Talkingshop: Mark Cavendish

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Winner of a British Road Race title for the first time, Mark Cavendish told VeloUK the form is good ahead of the Tour de France as he looks to wear yellow for the first time

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By Larry Hickmott

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I’ve seen Mark Cavendish race in Britain since he was a junior and never have I seen him perform the way he did in Glasgow on Sunday. Dare I say it but he’s even seemed to struggle with the British style of racing without a team around him in past years. That all changed on Sunday when he took the race to Team Sky and the other riders in the event and came out on top with a very stylish victory.

It was quite simply a stunning performance from the Quickstep rider and a momentous day thanks to the Manx Missile’s manner of victory.

Cavendish will now take that British champions jersey into the Tour de France on Saturday to do what he does best, winning big bunch kicks and who knows, he may be swapping the champion’s jersey for yellow but more on that later.

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In last Sunday’s race, he was a different rider to the one we see on our TV screens. This was no easy parcours, a real racer’s course was how David Millar described it afterwards and Mark had only one teammate in the race, Andy Fenn , a rider who not that many years ago was riding Friday night track leagues at Gosling stadium in Welwyn. In 2013, he too showed a different side to his riding in Glasgow.

Both Cavendish and Fenn lined up on the start line early and at the front, checking their gears and relaxing with still twenty minutes to go to the off as the rest of the other 160 riders lined up behind. That was unusual and something certainly seemed to be in the offing many of the ‘insiders’ looking on thought. So it proved as Fenn went up the road with Ian Stannard on lap one and the race was over for most from that point on.

Cavendish said later in a team press release “it was a good move to put Fenn in the front so I could save myself and sit in the wheels of the chasing group and stay relaxed. Then when we caught Fenn and Stannard, I started riding.”

“it was a good move to put Fenn in the front so I could save myself and sit in the wheels of the chasing group and stay relaxed. Then when we caught Fenn and Stannard, I started riding.”

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That chase group which Cavendish had got into was again made up of only WorldTour pros with the domestic pros in a chase group behind. Even with fresh legs, most had missed the train and whether that was down to the physical demands or a lack of a focus, we’ll perhaps never know.

This remember was on lap two of thirteen. 160 riders started and after lap 1, only six riders were in the race for the jersey. Astonishing.

It was a fast start for sure and in his interview afterwards, David Millar on ‘home’ turf in Scotland, admits he felt great ahead of the Tour de France. He explained “we were so terrified of the start, of missing it, we maybe kind of over did it a bit.”

“We knew we had to be aggressive at the start because all the guys here on the domestic scene have been racing crits and would be at ease for the first hour, hour and half and could probably make our life hell so we took the offensive and ended up perhaps taking too much offensive.. it made for a long day”.

David Millar: “We knew we had to be aggressive at the start because all the guys here on the domestic scene have been racing crits and would be at ease for the first hour, hour and half and could probably make our life hell

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David Millar chasing the two leaders

If it was a long day for the leaders, it was an even longer day for the rest behind as they chased all day long and the time gaps at the end showed the difference between the World Tour riders and the rest. For Cav at the front, he was always going to be the favourite as the fastest man in the world and it was going to be up to the others to get rid of him.

There in Glasgow, he was showing the world he was a rider who could race at the front with the best for a lot longer than just 200 metres.

He never gave his rivals the chance to get rid of him as he went on the offensive. Many a time a sprinter has said to me that if they have a choice, winning solo is the best option as something can always go wrong if you make the sprint the only option. Cav didn’t do that even though it did come down to a sprint between just three riders; him, Ian Stannard and David Millar and it was the attacks by Cav, Millar and Stannard that saw the sprint come to down to so few riders.

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An example of this was Cav attacking up Montrose street whilst fellow sprinter Ben Swift was full gas at the back, teeth out, doing his best to stay in contact. The race was electric all the way to the line.

Judging by the crowd’s reaction back at the finish when asked if they’d like Cavendish to win, it was easy to see it was going to be a popular win and so it proved. After the victory he was ushered into a tent away from the prying lenses of the media except for TV and British Cycling’s own photographer (none of us were allowed near it except for BC’s own lensmen).

TV after TV interview followed for ‘Cav’ such was the interest from national broadcasters to one man and his camera operations from PR companies. The podium presentation followed and then Cavendish had a date with more TV before he was ushered into said ‘tent’ with the print and internet based ‘written’ media.

If ever there was a winner going to give the event a lot of publicity it was victory by the former World Road Champion and as he sat down on a plastic chair, a large number of tape recorders and iphones were thrust close to his face to capture every word.

In contrast to the confident, exuberant person he’d been in front of the TV cameras and when he was with his other half Peta and the two children, Cav sat down in front of the press and with head down, quietly answered the many questions about the race and the Tour de France.

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He started by saying “ my form is good and I was motivated. I trained well because the Tour de France is coming up and to be honest, it was unexpected that I won here.”

“I was here more as preparation for the Tour, to get the last hit out and to see the par cours for the Commonwealth Games next year. Normally, with so many Team Sky riders, it was going to be difficult to win here so I wasn’t really expecting it but we got a group away after about twenty kilometres and we worked well together. So I’m happy.”

“I had bit of luck at the end with Ian (Stannard) being left isolated.”

When I put it to Mark that it was the most aggressive ride I’d seen him race (something others had also said when we’d chatted) and asked whether he was pleased with his performance, he replied “my job is as a sprinter and at the end of the day I can’t be dicking about getting in breaks in World Tour races; I’m paid to sprint. It was the national championships and it’s not going to be a sprint so you have to get in the break. It’s just a different style of racing.”

 “my job is as a sprinter and at the end of the day I can’t be dicking about getting in breaks in World Tour races; I’m paid to sprint.

Asked about the course, he said “it was nice. There were a lot of people out and I’m glad it didn’t rain with cobbles and that. When it did start to rain, it was quite treacherous to be fair. It’s flat; like there are up and downs but they are not climbs but it’s the consistent 90 degree corners that kind of add up, sprinting out of that, your power output over 180 kilometres kind of adds up and that was the most difficult bit.”

Asked was he looking forward to coming back for the Commonwealth’s, he replied “absolutely.”

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On wearing the Champion’s jersey in the Tour de France, he replied “that’s going to be really nice. I’m patriotic and proud to be British and will be proud the jersey represents my country in France next week.” He added that it’s going to be an honour to wear the stripes for a year and he wants to do justice to the jersey.

At the Tour de France though, after the first stage on Saturday, he may swap the British stripes for the ‘maillot jaune’ as he explained to the BBC. “It’s a big, big goal and a huge motivation for a team built around stage wins. To get a win won’t be easy, especially on the first stage of the Tour.”

He added “history has showed it normally takes me a few days to get into a Grand Tour. Not at the Giro this year (when he won the opening stage), but before that. We’ll go for it, but you have to show the Tour de France respect – nothing’s a given. We’ll try our best and see what happens.”

“Stage 1 presents the opportunity for a sprinter to wear the yellow jersey for the first time since the 60s so I am going to try. I’ve never yet worn the Yellow jersey and I’m excited to be trying for that opportunity.”

“Stage 1 presents the opportunity for a sprinter to wear the yellow jersey for the first time since the 60s so I am going to try. I’ve never yet worn the Yellow jersey and I’m excited to be trying for that opportunity.”

Mark has worn the Pink (Italy) and Gold jerseys (Spain) before but not yet the Yellow from the Tour de France and whilst he admits it’s impossible for him to win the race overall, to wear yellow once would be special. But it isn’t just the Yellow jersey he has eyes on.

In one of the many interviews he has given, this one to ITV, Cavendish admits the Tour de France in 2013 is all about the Green jersey and winning as many stages as possible. Asked about his rivals for the Green jersey and whether it was just him and Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Cav replied “there is a very strong crop of sprinters this year and it could go right down to the wire.”

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“I’ll keep an eye on the other sprinters and try to win as much as possible and see what comes from that.”

Mark was also questioned about his team, Quickstep, who have come in for criticism from none other than it’s team boss Patrick Lefevere for the teams poor performances in leading Mark out in the sprints during the classics season.

There does seem to have been an improvement in races like the Giro for example and Mark replied “I’m loving life with Omega Pharma Quickstep. It’s been the most successful season to date I have had in my career and hopefully I can continue that with the Tour de France.”

Asked what stages he was looking forward to most, Mark replied “the Champs Elysees is the one I most look forward to.”

It is the ‘queen’ stage for the sprinters and by the time the race gets there. Many of the sprinters may well not be left in the race but after four wins on this prestigious stage, it is the one that he’ll be looking to crown a great race. So whilst the media may well have their attention on Chris Froome going for Yellow, you can be sure, Cavendish will make a few headlines of his own just as he did in Glasgow on Sunday.

 

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