In modern, celebrity-obsessed Britain, having an internationally famous sportsman as a father and former Page 3 model for a mother may seem the latter-day version of being born with the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth. But it’s an object forged from an a more precious metal that Mark Cavendish has promised the child he and girlfriend Peta Todd are expecting, due to be born in April – the gold medal in next summer’s Olympic road race.
In an interview published in the Mail on Sunday, the 26-year-old, who heads to Team Sky for 2012 following the break-up of his former HTC-Highroad team, revealed that the thought of impending fatherhood – Todd herself already has a five-year-old son – will give him all the motivation he needs in chasing his goals for 2012 and beyond.
“Far from blunting my edge, it’s making me want to strive even harder because everything I do will affect my child’s future,” the world champion explained. “There will be no holding back in 2012.”
Cavendish was speaking as he completed his first week of serious training for a season in which he hopes to win what will be the first gold medal to be awarded in any sport less than one week after having retaining his green points jersey in the Tour de France. His preparation for the challenged ahead has started well, he says.
“I’ve never been going so well at this time of the year as I am now. Before, with the Tour being in the summer, I haven’t needed to try so hard just now. But I’m a very different person this time because of what will happen in my life next year.”
Talking of that five-day interval between the Tour de France ending on the Champs-Elysées, where he has prevailed on the final Sunday of the race for the past three years, and the Olympic road race the following Saturday, Cavendish admitted, “It’s not ideal but I’m a professional cyclist whose job is to ride in the Tour de France.”
“All my Olympic rivals will also be in the Tour, so I’m not at a disadvantage. If I didn’t think I could win both, I wouldn’t attempt it,” he added.
Ever since news broke last June that Cavendish was planning to move to Team Sky, concerns have been voiced in some quarters that the British team would find it hard to reconcile Cavendish’s pursuit of the green jersey at the Tour with the general classification ambitions of Bradley Wiggins.
If anything, the faction who maintain that it’s impossible nowadays to launch a two-pronged attack on cycling’s biggest race has intensified since Wiggins, riding the Vuelta after a broken collarbone forced him to abandon the Tour at the end of the first week, and team mate Chris Froome finished second and third overall in the Spanish race.
Cavendish, however, who won the stage into Châteauroux on which Wiggins suffered his Tour-ending injury and only learnt of it when interviewed on TV afterwards, insists that the twin aims aren’t mutually exclusive.
He also insists that Wiggins could actually benefit from Team Sky targeting both a podium place and the points classification.
“Absolutely,” said Cavendish. “It will help because Brad crashed last year. He was too far back in the peloton where accidents tend to happen whereas with me pushing for sprint points, he’ll be further up the field and out of trouble. We’ll work as a team and it will take pressure off us with both in the team.”
Wiggins, who had already picked up two gold medals in Beijing in the team and individual pursuits, partnered Cavendish in the Madison at those Games, but the pair finished a disappointing ninth.
That left Cavendish, who despite winning four stages had departed the Tour de France early to hook up with the British squad, as the only track cyclist from these shores to return to Britain without a medal to show for it. His relationship with Wiggins was frosty for a while before the pair patched it up.
Sacrificing part of those three weeks in France to focus on a chance to chase gold every four years is not a trade-off he ever intends repeating. “I’ll always compete in the Olympics but I’ll never quit the Tour again to do so,” he insisted. “I regret doing that.”
The situation with London 2012 is, of course, rather different to what it was three years ago. Instead of having to make the transition from the tarmac of the road to the wooden boards of the velodrome, it will be a case of maintaining the form that so far has brought him 20 Tour de France stage victories and thereby getting the host nation’s Olympics off to the best possible start.
“It’s a massive incentive,” he reflected. “Of course, I’d love to win a gold medal for me, and for cycling, but to be able to do it for my country at the Olympics, and kickstart a wonderful two weeks for British sport, means that the five of us
in the road race team will do everything in our power to make it happen.”
There still remains one issue to be decided in 2011, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, the nominations for which are due to be announced live tomorrow evening on The One Show. The bookmakers already have Cavendish down as favourite.
“I’m very excited about it because I know I’ve got a chance to win it, which
would be great for me, and even better for the sport,” he enthused. “Chris [Hoy] had a great 2008 and deserved to win the BBC award but that was in an Olympic year. I’m very aware that if I win, it will be because of my feats out on the roads this year. It would be very special.”
Winning that accolade would certainly put the seal on a year in which he fulfilled the two goals he set himself at the start of the season, winning the green jersey in the Tour and the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen, but for Cavendish himself, it’s the thought of becoming a father that eclipses both of those achievements.
“It’s the most exciting news I’ve had all year, and that includes what I’ve done in cycling ,” he concluded.
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.