Sunday tabloid The News of the World may pride itself on breaking exclusives when it comes to celebrities’ love lives, but one of today's stories – that HTC-Columbia’s star sprinter Mark Cavendish has a “new” girlfriend – makes it, to use a cycling analogy, more of a lanterne rouge than a Tour de France green jersey contender.
Last year, the Manx Missile broke up with long-time girlfriend and fiancée Melissa Phillips and by October had been snapped at an awards ceremony with new partner Fiorella Migliore, a former winner of the Miss Italia nel Mondo contest, open to women from around the world with Italian ancestry.
Those pictures and news of the cyclist’s new relationship, which went public at around the same time as he had been due to marry Melissa, received widespread coverage both in the cycling and mainstream press here and abroad.
So why Wapping's finest decided to choose today to revive what is an old story is unclear - perhaps it was a quiet day for celebrity gossip?
Indeed, today’s article on the newspaper's website is illustrated with a picture from 12 months ago of Cavendish – who later today lines up for the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California a fortnight after being withdrawn from the Tour de Romandie by his team after giving his critics a by-now-infamous V-sign salute – in the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa next to Fiorella.
That picture, of course, may well pre-date the pair becoming an item, and it perhaps lacks the scandal value of La Stampa’s famous 1948 photo of the married Fausto Coppi’s mistress Giulia Occhini, the wife of an army captain, who was quickly dubbed “the Woman in White,” but even so it should have been a clue, not to mention the fact that Cavendish spent last Christmas with Fiorella’s family in Paraguay.
Cavendish himself opened up about the end of his relationship with Melissa in an interview last month with irish pro cyclist-turned-journalist Paul Kimmage for The Sunday Times – housed, like the News of the World, in Rupert Murdoch’s so-called “Fortress Wapping” – in which he said: “I was four months away from getting married. She’s pushing me to get my suit but I’m thinking, ‘Hang on. I’m not ready to go through with this’. I think it was better to finish things before the marriage.”
The News of The World adds that the forthcoming paperback edition of Cavendish’s biography, Boy Racer, due out next month, has had the dedication to Melissa that appeared in the hardback version toned down.
On the final page, Cavendish had written: “"Last and most, not least, of all, I thank and dedicate this book to my fiancée, Melissa. Lissie, you were there when I was a scally with no money and sometimes even less charm, and you're still there for me now that I'm a lot older but unfortunately, on occasions, no less of an asshole... "
According to the newspaper, that has now been replaced by a simple thanks to “Melissa and her family".
For her part, Melissa appears to have drawn a line under her relationship with Cavendish, telling the News of the World yesterday: "Mark's a big star now and travelling around the world - and then there's little old me getting on with my life in the Isle of Man.”
She added: "I was devastated when we split but there's no chance of a reconciliation. That stage of my life's over."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.