Mark Cavendish talks about his frustrating 2012 season

Former world champion also says wrong to view all cyclists as dopers in Times interview

by Simon_MacMichael   October 29, 2012  

Mark Cavendish MSR 2012 (© Simon MacMichael)

Mark Cavendish says that viewing all cyclists as dopers as a result of the Lance Armstrong scandal is tantamount to believing all TV presenters are child abusers because of Jimmy Savile. The former world champion was talking The Times in an interview [£] that also touched upon his frustrations in this year’s Tour de France and Olympic road race, among other issues.

“Just bandwagon stuff isn’t it?” Cavendish said of the coverage of the Armstrong scandal. “Same with everything. If this negativity had come to cycling ten years ago I would accept it, but the negativity is coming to cycling now because of what happened years ago and that’s not right.

“It’s not fair to paint everyone with the same brush,” he maintained. “Look at what happened with Jimmy Savile - you can’t accuse every TV presenter of what he’s been accused of. It doesn’t work like that.

“Since I turned pro, I’ve not seen anything that suggests it’s not clean. I’m riding clean and winning the biggest bike races in the world and I’m not actually that good. So if I’m winning clean then people can’t be cheating. You might get the odd dickhead, but they will get found out now.”

The frustration of Cavendish and others at being asked to explain the actions of riders who are now retired or coming to the end of their careers is an understandable one, but while most would accept that doping isn’t as rampant as it was during the EPO era, the Padova investigation in Italy suggests the problem is far from being eradicated.

For Cavendish himself there is the more pressing issue of getting his career back on track after a frustrating 2012 which brought him 15 wins, including three stages in both the Giro and the Tour de France, but he missed out on Olympic gold and surrendered the green points jersey he’d won in last year’s Tour.

While Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford insisted ahead of that race that the focus would be entirely on Wiggins’ pursuit of the maillot jaune, Cavendish clearly still believes that he could have been given more scope to go for stage wins.

“Look, I did not want a full team built around me,” he explained. “If I’d wanted that I would never have gone there in the first place. And I didn’t want to put the yellow jersey at risk.

“But I could not get my head round it when we got to stages, which would not have jeopardised it, and the sports director said, ‘We don’t want a sprint’. I’m a perfectionist. I was one of the most prolific winners of the year, but I was good enough to win 25 and I won 15. I’m not happy if I don’t achieve exactly what I set out to do.”

The big ambition during 2012 of course was the Olympic road race but despite Cavendish’s Great Britain team mates digging deep for the cause, once a big group including a number of strong riders got away on the final circuit of Box Hill it proved impossible to bring them back.

“Afterwards Brad and Ian [Stannard] just sat there for 20 minutes, just staring at the floor,” Cavendish revealed. “They couldn’t move, couldn’t even take their skin suits off. People forget that they weren’t even going for a medal. There was no disappointment, no regrets, no bitterness. It was one of the proudest moments of my career.”

Cavendish said it was during the Tour de France that he realised he would not be able to realise his own ambitions with a team that had the GC as its principal goal, and his move to Omega Pharma Quick Step for 2013 means that there will be no such conflict when next year’s race starts on Corsica with what should be a sprinter-friendly opening stage.

Since Cavendish first rode the Tour in 2007, the race has begun either with a Prologue or a road stage featuring a tough finale, so it represents a rare opportunity for him to get into the one Grand Tour leader’s jersey to have eluded him so far.

“I’ve worn the leader’s jersey in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España so it would be nice to complete the set,” he reflected.

He dismissed suggestions however that the ascendancy of Wiggins, who added Olympic time trial gold to his Tour de France title, might cause problems in the relationship between the pair who had a brief but public falling out after Beijing in 2008.

There, Cavendish was the only British track rider not to pick up a medal after a disappointing performance in the Madison alongisde Wiggins, who had already claimed gold in the individual and team pursuits.

“Brad’s a friend of mine, almost a brother to me, I’m a professional, I was part of a team that won the yellow jersey,” he maintained. “It was not hard to keep riding, but I’m not happy unless I win as much as is possible.”

That will to win often leads to a spiky post-race manner when things haven’t gone to plan, as the BBC’s David Bond found out when trying to interview Cavendish immediately after the Olympic road race.

“I’m just matter of fact,” said Cavendish. “Most northern people call a spade a spade. That can be taken wrong, but I just ask to be treated like a human being. I have big morals and principles. I really believe in loyalty; I believe in treating everyone as equal; once people stop respecting that you’re a person it gets my back up quickly.

“The thing is I actually arrive at the end fresher than the rest. To me other riders are just objects. I have no sense of who is around me. I don’t look at anybody. It sounds so unromantic, but it’s so clinical, just a precise set of calculations that change constantly.

“What people forget is we don’t just sprint for 300 metres, it’s red line stuff ten kilometres out. A sprinter is someone who can go fast in the red zone, when the body is full of lactic acid. I don’t have adrenalin. Instead of being full of pent-up emotion and aggression, it’s the opposite. Keep my heart rate low. Go through the motions. The heart’s near the max, 160 beats a minute, but you’re trying to bottle it, bottle it. That’s why after the line it all comes pouring out. When you let go it’s going to erupt.”

Cavendish also spoke about the effect of fatherhood on him, with baby Delilah Grace born in April and brought along by mother Peta Todd to see him win a stage of the Giro d’Italia the following month.

“A lot of the dads in the peloton said to me that I’d start to bottle it now and I thought, ‘oh fuck’, but to be fair it’s done the opposite,” he insisted. “The dads said I wouldn’t take as many risks, but I don’t take many risks anyway. It’s calculated and rare that I crash through a technical error.

“But if I’m going to be away from my daughter for 200 days a year then I’m going to make every day count. I’m more aggressive now because it’s got to be worth it. I’m doing this to provide for my family and to make them proud. In the peloton we used to talk about cars and women; now it’s babies and buggies.”

Cavendish’s move to Omega Pharma Quick Step means that he won’t be able to rely on the advice of his longstanding coach at British Cycling and more recently Team Sky, Rod Ellingworth, architect of the Project Rainbow that brought Cavendish his world championship victory in Copenhagen last year.

“He’s been there through every bad time and every good time, our daughters are born a week apart, so it’s sad,” Cavendish admitted, concluding: “You need someone to bring you down to earth.”

16 user comments

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this boy's such a whiner .....

posted by Karbon Kev [663 posts]
29th October 2012 - 12:30

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The proportion (indeed, the absolute number) of TV celebs who were paedophiles is low (I can only think of Jimmy Saville). The proportion of pro cyclists who've been caught doping on the other hand is high. So high that Mark hasn't yet cycled with a team that hasn't had at least a few dopers.

That's so obvious that you have to wonder how Mark can come out with this stuff.

posted by Paul J [525 posts]
29th October 2012 - 12:31

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Kudos to him for keeping quiet about his frustrations during the season.
Kudos to him for the use of the word 'dickhead'.
Less kudos to him for 'not seeing anything'.

posted by Some Fella [707 posts]
29th October 2012 - 12:36

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"I’m riding clean and winning the biggest bike races in the world and I’m not actually that good. So if I’m winning clean then people can’t be cheating. You might get the odd dickhead, but they will get found out now."

“If you consider my situation: a guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence, why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That's crazy. I would never do that. No. No way.”

Heard it all before. blah blah blah.

posted by localsurfer [160 posts]
29th October 2012 - 12:42

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Some Fella wrote:
Kudos to him for keeping quiet about his frustrations during the season.
Kudos to him for the use of the word 'dickhead'.
Less kudos to him for 'not seeing anything'.

Hmmm, I can see him not having seen anything. He's not been around long and apart from a stint with T-mobile when they were probably cleaner than ever he's been with 'clean' teams. HTC were anti-doping, Sky were anti-doping. It's likely that by the time he graduated to the big boys squads in T-mobile/HTC there wouldn't have been a great deal to 'see'.

Likewise, if from the very start he's been clear that he won't dope then anyone in those teams doping, or helping others to dope, would probably have steered clear of him.

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
29th October 2012 - 13:24

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Not just that, but he's roomed with a limited number of people - just Eisel for the last couple of years. Unless he was on a doped team - say, talking openly about it on the bus, why would he have seen anything?

Interesting how many negative comments there are - he's a British world champion, never a sniff or whisper of doping around him, and ultimately, he's answering questions that are put to him, he doesn't get to choose the questions. Would you rather we had nice-guy plucky losers instead like Tim Henman?

As for Karbon Kev, I'm beginning to think you just troll this site sometimes. Certainly on anything regarding Cav.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2890 posts]
29th October 2012 - 14:56

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Cav's comments on "dickheads" must have applied to people on this site after reading some of the comments, oh dear have i said to much, tuff Angry

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2642 posts]
29th October 2012 - 15:00

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I misread this first time round and, thinking Karbon Kev said "this boy's such a winner", I was going to add: "Seems like a decent bloke, too." I guess he still is a decent bloke. And maybe still a winner! Plain Face

Fran the Man

posted by Fran The Man [61 posts]
29th October 2012 - 15:07

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Paul J wrote:
The proportion (indeed, the absolute number) of TV celebs who were paedophiles is low (I can only think of Jimmy Saville).

Technically its at the Jimmy Saville and 'others' stage at the moment so that could be any number of TV celebs...

Fair play to Cav for sticking up for a sport he loves.

posted by stevebull-01 [60 posts]
29th October 2012 - 16:40

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Top man, got a lot time for Cav. I knew though it would never work at Sky.

posted by leedgreen [28 posts]
29th October 2012 - 18:17

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I've got a lot of time for Cav. I was chuffed when he joined Sky, and gutted when he went.

To see him ride past in TOB with the Rainbow jersey made me proud. I really felt for him during the Olympic road race.

I feel that he may have been impatient by moving on but in his game the careers are short-lived.

Good on you Cav - but watch out for Luke Rowe !

posted by Littlesox [89 posts]
29th October 2012 - 19:35

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Wish I had a quid for every cynical know it all on here.

posted by Beaufort [106 posts]
29th October 2012 - 19:49

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I want implying that he hadnt seen any doping by his own team mates - im saying that he must certainly have known others in the peleton were doping (its not like their arent enough of them) and yet didnt say owt.

posted by Some Fella [707 posts]
29th October 2012 - 21:49

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Beaufort wrote:
Wish I had a quid for every cynical know it all on here.

How do we know you don't?

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
29th October 2012 - 22:41

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I agree with Cheerful Kev. Cav is indeed a winner!

Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1011 posts]
30th October 2012 - 9:59

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MercuryOne wrote:
I agree with Cheerful Kev. Cav is indeed a winner!

Big Grin

I wish we had more like him, this country of ours seems to have a lack of real champions.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2642 posts]
30th October 2012 - 11:10

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