Mark Cavendish, le Mozart du onze-dents

2009-05-27, Comments

In a year (2008) when British cyclists cleaned up at the Beijing Olympics, the undoubted sporting highlight, for me, was Mark Cavendish winning 4 stages of the world’s greatest race. Leading out, chasing back, with his team, alone — he dominated the sprint finishes, reading the final metres like no one else. He’s an astonishing racer.

I remember him being astonished, too, when he realised that despite crushing the other sprinters he trailed them in the points competition. Even if he made it over the Alps and on to Paris, winning yet more stages on the way, he wouldn’t be wearing the coveted maillot vert. So he left, to prepare for the Olympics, a decision he now describes as:

“The biggest regret of my career”

Mozart

I’ve never really got the points competition. To be honest, I’ve never cared much about it, preferring the more obvious excitement of the mountain stages, sprint finishes and time-trials, but … well … now we’ve got a contender, things are different!

The points competition is more of a marathon than a sprint. For a start, you have to complete the race — a feat requiring supreme endurance and not a little luck — and over the course of three weeks you have to niggle and scrape points at every opportunity. The green jersey is about pacing yourself, restraint. It would seem a better fit for a calculating rider (Chris Boardman, say) than the instinctive, headstrong cyclist that is Mark Cavendish.

Above all else, though, Cavendish is stubborn. I’m convinced his sights have been set on the maillot vert ever since the point last year when he realised he couldn’t have it. I’m sorry he’s abandoned the Giro. I would have imagined completing the course to be the best possible preparation for July. How else can you learn what it feels like to race for 3500km split over 21 stages?

Campagnolo casette with 11T sprocket

I wouldn’t know. Here’s to seeing “le Mozart du onze-dents” in green on the Champs-Élysées!