Mark Cavendish expects Tour de France results to suffer for Olympic preparation

Manx Missile says winning at home Olympics worth sacrificing stage wins

by John Stevenson   June 19, 2012  

Giro 2012 S5 Mark Cavendish and daughter (pic Gian Mattia D'Alberto:LaPresse:RCS Sport)

In a wide ranging interview that also touched on David Millar, and the subject of drug testing in cycling and other sports Mark Cavendish has said that his changes in diet and training in preparation for the 2012 Olympics may make him less competitive in the Tour de France this year. But the prestige of winning gold in London is worth the sacrifice.

"In cycling the Olympics doesn't rank highly, it is not a prestigious event, but as a Great Britain athlete to compete for the flag I was born under, is a big thing,” Cavendish said at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club Tuesday morning.

"It brings extra motivation. That is why I am changing [my training]. I will not be as successful in the Tour de France as I have been in the past.”

Nevertheless, the Cav Confidence we've come to know and love was still in evidence.

"I will win stages but I may not win five. My sprint has suffered a little bit, but the guys who are sprinters, like I was, won't be there in the [Olympic road race] finish.”

Cavendish sees the clmb of Box Hill as the crux of the Olympic road race route. “The Olympic organisers originally had a flatter route but it was rejected by the UCI. If Box Hill was in the Tour de France, it would not even be categorised as a climb. So one time of Box Hill, it's not categorised. Four times, yes, you're starting to feel the hill. Six, seven. Hmmmm. And nine times, yes, it's a climb.”

And it will be selective. "It is not going to be a bunch sprint at the end. There will be a group of less than 50 riders at the finish and I have to be there with those guys."

Cavendish also gave more details of the recent changes to his diet and training that have seen him lose 4 kilograms with the aim of making himself he kind of well-rounded rider who has a chance at the Games. And for the first time in his career, he's paying attention to coaches and sports scientists.

He said: "I never used to listen to a sports scientist who would tell me how to train when they hadn't ever been on a bike. They used to do all these tests and come back to me and say 'you're ****'. They shouldn't compare me with someone else. I am a different rider. The sports scientists we have now are fantastic so my training is more controlled. But I still have certain rules of my own. I won't cross the same road twice during a ride.

"I have a bowl of Special K in the morning with rice milk. My body responds well to rice and Special K is made of rice. Then I go out and ride anywhere between 2 hours and 7 hours, 60 to 200 kilometres per day. I vary my training, Last week in Italy I did an 11km hill climb five times."

His recent overall victory in the Ster ZLM Toer last week demonstrated he's on the right track.  "It was a benchmark in my career. I knew it was possible to do. It is absolutely important [to have won stage race in the Olympic run-up].”

"I am so much faster than the others anyway I can afford to lose a few per cent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line. It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics."

The British team in London may include repentant drug user David Millar who has said he will be available for the Games. "It is not for me to comment on the decision of the court but Millar is, I would say, more than essential to the road race team and I'm delighted he will be available," said Cavendish.

On the subject of drugs, Cavendish said he believes cycling is cleaner than it has been in the past

"There's less [doping] now because everybody knows it's impossible," he said."Cycling wants a clean and fair sport, and I'll stick my neck on the line and say that other sports would sweep it under the carpet."

Cavendish put cycling's apparently high incidence of drug use down to improved detection. "If any organisation puts the time, the effort and the money into catching those cheats, they'll catch the cheats. Now cycling does that. It catches the cheats, so there's more positive cases."

Despite targeting the Olympics, Cavendish is still taking the Tour seriously, but joining Team Sky means the structure around him has changed.

"Always in the past I have had a team dedicated to me, and Bradley has always had a team dedicated to him. But this time it will be different for both of us. They won't be specialists as they have been before," he said.

"Doing both the Olympics and the Tour isn't easy but it is possible. The Tour is my job. Commercially if a sponsor puts in money the Tour de France is the big deal so I have to do it. I want to do it. It is what my season's about. I have to display my sponsor's logo. There's no better way to display your sponsor's logo than going over the line with your hands in the air."

"I am so much faster than the others anyway, I can afford to lose a few per cent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line," he said. "It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics."

15 user comments

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2 - 7 hours on a bowl of rice cereal...... That's why I'll never be even remotely competitive! Smile

It doesn't get easier, you just go faster.....maybe

pward's picture

posted by pward [88 posts]
20th June 2012 - 6:33

1 Like

So looks like he and the team have conceded that maybe yellow, green AND the olympics is too much. I think yellow and a few stage wins plus Olympic Gold would be an awesome result.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
20th June 2012 - 8:54


notfastenough wrote:
So looks like he and the team have conceded that maybe yellow, green AND the olympics is too much. I think yellow and a few stage wins plus Olympic Gold would be an awesome result.

Maybe - although being leaner and recovering better may make green a bit easier. Green rewards consistency, so if he's up there on more stages but finishing a place or two lower, it's still possible...

Agreed, though, that Yellow and Gold would be a brilliant season for any team, let alone one with it's home olympics. Roll on July!

posted by step-hent [718 posts]
20th June 2012 - 9:15


I'm betting that he won't finish the tour. Maybe bag a couple of stages, but pull out with a week or so to go. If he's going for the Olympic RR, then I can't imagine he'll want to be going to Paris after completing the giro.

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [320 posts]
20th June 2012 - 9:42


Cool Its Brad's for the taking


posted by seanieh66 [197 posts]
20th June 2012 - 9:44


If Cav finishes the Tour I will eat my shoes.

Looks like Cav is finally maturing and accepting that these sports scientists could actually help him get thise "marginal gains".

I wonder if Cav & Wiggo will start tweeting about how they wont be going for both jerseys now similar to when Wiggo won P-N and they were getting on their high horses.

Next season will be interesting no Olympic games and if Wiggo and Cav are both fit for the Tour, what will the plan be?

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
20th June 2012 - 10:26

1 Like

Darthshearer, what garnish and sauce will sir be using?

Hamster's picture

posted by Hamster [93 posts]
20th June 2012 - 12:33

1 Like

If he ain't gonna finish why start? I hope this is the first step in the eventual admission that he isn't going to the Tour. I'd much rather his place go to someone who can complete the Tour and ride in the mountains in support of Brad. This year has got to be the best chance ever of a yellow overall and as I have said for months including Cav concerns me. If Sky is about minimal gains then surely one of those is minimizing losses and I think there are better cards to play to support the yellow jersey.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [495 posts]
20th June 2012 - 13:18


pward wrote:
2 - 7 hours on a bowl of rice cereal...... That's why I'll never be even remotely competitive! Smile

You can.

I often do 2 hour rides and my morning commute on no food. However, don't take that to mean I (or Cavendish) don't eat anything during the ride. Up to 2 hours I take just water. Beyond that a fruit bar or some raisins, a second bar for more than 3 hour. If I can do it then anyone can.

Barry Murray advises BMC's Steve Cummings among others, and starts training and races 'on empty'. See this blog post for an idea of how he achieves it.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2416 posts]
20th June 2012 - 14:20


Hamster, I am partial to a little OK Sauce with a nice shoe dish Smile

I just cannot see him staying the duration of the Tour. If the Olympic RR was elsewhere then maybe I see him finishing the Tour. Winning for a 4th time on the bounce on the Champs whilst wearing the stripes is special, but so is a one in a lifetime winning gold in your "home" country.

I think he wasnt expected to stay the duration of the Giro, but out of respect for the race whilst wearing the Maglia Rosa and the Giro, he stayed in. This has impacted on his schedule. IIRC He was down to race Tour de Suisse and that changed and he won his first GC race.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
20th June 2012 - 15:15


This was planned a long time ago big year for British cycling. No doubt he would love to win in Paris again but depends how he is going and the pressure from above

posted by kylemalco [35 posts]
20th June 2012 - 22:10


TdF comes round every year. Olympics doesn't come to your country often. Olympics may mean nothing in cycling terms but this isn't just about cycling fans. If Mark finishes TdF I'll be adding chili sauce to a straw hat.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [186 posts]
21st June 2012 - 0:01

1 Like

You can be sure Cav will start Le Tour and go as long as he can because the team sponsor will say so. British sponsor, Britain's most famous cyclist, top event in the sport etc. Do you really think he will not be at the start gate?

Brad has a realistic chance, probably his best ever but if he is not on it in the mountains 100% for every stage then he is not going to take it out. My biggest fear for him is that he is not a mountain natural and he has had to work like buggery to reduce the gap to the contenders.

posted by RTB [132 posts]
21st June 2012 - 1:30


I do wonder if the physiological changes he is making to his body to improve his chances of winning the Olympic road race are as easily reversible as implied. Or are we seeing the first tentative steps towards taking on new cycling challenges in the next phase of his professional cycling career?


posted by lushmiester [164 posts]
21st June 2012 - 1:46


As others have said, it's pretty obvious he'll start the TdF but not finish it and focus on the Olympics. The TdF may be the biggest event in cycling but it's dwarfed by the Olympics and a home Olympics + main sponsor that's UK based then it's a no brainer where his priority lies. It also gave him a chance at the points in the giro but unfortunately he couldn't pull that off.
And yes ofc he should start, starting and winning even just a couple of stages is still a much bigger deal than taking another domestique instead who might finish the race - some people seem to forget pro cycling is a business...

posted by fuzzywuzzy [71 posts]
21st June 2012 - 7:43

1 Like