who is Mark Cavendish, the “brat” of the group announcing his retirement at 38?
The intruder of the news shines the spotlight every night on a character who could have passed under the radar of the news.
Mark Cavendish, the “bad boy” of the peloton, took advantage of the rest day of the Giro d’Italia, Monday 22 May, to announce his retirement at the end of the season. A brilliant sprinter as a character, it is not said that it is a coincidence, the Cav ‘, as we call him, had sobs in his voice, surrounded by his wife and children to announce, the day after his 38th birthday, that he had hung up. “Today is my son’s birthday, and from now on I’ll be there for every birthday, he said at the press conference. “It’s up to me to support my wife and children in their sporting competitions. I want to be able to ride with them without fear of getting hurt or ill. The year 2023 will be my last year as a professional cyclist.”
>> Cycling: the British Mark Cavendish will retire at the end of the season
His record speaks volumes with 161 victories in total, one world champion title, 34 stage victories in the Tour de France, 16 in the Giro d’Italia and three in the Tour of Spain. He is undoubtedly one of the best sprinters in history.
The story of this British pre-retiree, also from Manx, begins on the Isle of Man where he was born in 1985. Mark grew up on this large rock, 50km long and 20km wide, located in the middle of the Irish Sea. He says that as a kid, on a bike, he loses against all his friends who are all on mountain bikes, even his mother makes fun of him, until the day when he asks her for a mountain bike for his 13th birthday and starts beating the whole world . Whoever watches the Tour de France from home has photos of runners full of him in his room, he is a fan in particular of the Scottish David Millar who, at that time, comes to compete in a race on his island. The young Cav’ starts with a cap, new photos and a tenfold desire to become a runner.
The track before the road
His first victories didn’t come on the road, but on the track. He is world champion at 20 years old. Champion of the American Race, which is a two-man type of track event. It’s 2005 in Los Angeles. It was the first time he had raced with his partner, Robert Hayles, and they finished one lap ahead of their competitors. His first Tour de France victory was in Châteauroux 2008. The peloton discovered this legendary “double kick”, this ability in a sprint to accelerate to 250 meters from the finish, then one second , which is extremely rare.
From its stunts, the group remembers a thousand stories. Cyrille Guimard, Bernard Hinault’s former sports director, also a professional sprinter, retains the memory of the “dirty boy” certainly but also of a manipulative racer. “In 2010, he caused a very big crash in the last 50 meters of a final sprint, says Cyrille Guimard. The pilots must be taken to the hospital and the next morning at the start, when he gets a little “excited” by the other pilots, he spits on the ground. Sometime later, when he won stage 5 or 6 of the Tour de France, he stepped onto the podium and made a grand sentimental gesture. Suddenly, Mark Cavendish has big tears and everyone says this “bad boy” still has feelings. I thought to myself at the time that the boys caught in the fall must still have fangs when they saw him cry.
Mark Cavendish could have been a dancer
Do you have to be a brat to win a sprint? Cyrille Guimard, obviously admiring the outstanding champion, is not far from thinking so. But with the end of his career approaching, the Cav’ seems to have calmed down lately, perhaps we should worry about the goal he’s set for himself this last season: a 35th victory in July’s Tour de France, which would see him surpass the Eddy Merckx records. The brat obviously has more of a spoke on his bike than him anyway. In the “Never where you expect it” genre, Cav’ could also have been a dancer. As a teenager, he competed nationally in ballroom dancing. So much so that when she got engaged to him, Peta Todd, the supermodel she describes herself as “uncoordinated with her long legs and awkward feet”, immediately imagine the fiasco that threatens to be the first dance of the evening. History does not say whether it was really a fiasco.
The story, however, preserves that for the wedding, the couple told friends and relatives: no gifts, rather donations to “Help for Heroes” and “Right to Play”. A fake “bad boy”, then, if we believe his teammates too. In his 17-year career, Mark Cavendish will also have known very dark moments, of depression as well as an Epstein-Barr virus, and even a home robbery two years ago. Mark Cavendish finds himself beaten, with a knife to his throat, under the eyes of his two children and his wife. The two attackers were sentenced to 12 and 15 years in prison. His career ends at Astana, the Kazakh team of his former teammate Alexandre Vinokourov, Al Italian newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, explained this winter that he had always thought that, if there was a book with all the greatest cyclists, he would like to be in there somewhere. We can take it for granted.