Mark Cavendish says that the crash that brought his Tour de France to an end before he had even completed the opening stage will give him the motivation to keep his career going for as long as he can – and he also plans to take to the track this winter to get back in condition.
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter was speaking to the Telegraph’s Jim White ahead of a recording of BT Sport 1’s The Clare Balding Show, to be aired tonight at 10.15pm.
“My shoulder’s not going to be all right for a few months yet,” said the former world champion, talking of the injury he sustained when he hit the deck at the end of the opening stage of the Tour in Harrogate, his mother’s home town.
“It still gives me a bit of gyp, I can’t lift too big a weight, which is going to be a bit of a problem this winter, but not too much,” he went on.
Cavendish rode in the Tour of Britain earlier this month but was clearly a long way short of full fitness, and he had also ruled himself out of the Great Britain squad for the world championships, saying others could do a better job.
Instead of taking to the gym as he usually would during the close season, Cavendish will now ride on the velodrome circuit – familiar territory for someone who has won rainbow jerseys both on the road and the track.
Speaking of his absence from all but the opening day of cycling’s biggest race this year, Cavendish said: “I really missed the Tour. I’ve done it every year since I turned pro in 2007. I don’t want to miss it again.
“If anything, this year has given me the inspiration to keep going as long as possible. You could say this year has pushed my career on a few more years.”
An x-ray confirmed that Cavendish would be unable to continue in the race, and the 28-year-old says the location of the crash, his mother’s home town, was immaterial.
He explained: “In terms of riding a bike and racing it was just the same as anywhere else, it just meant I had to do a lot more interviews beforehand.
“I’d have liked to win it, don’t get me wrong. It was incredible to see how many people got behind it. It was amazing in London a few years back. That was the best Grand Depart I’d been to until Yorkshire. Yorkshire just blew everything out the water. The guys were saying they had never seen anything like it in their careers.”
Like many other riders, though, Cavendish had concerns about the over-enthusiasm of the huge crowds that lined the route of that opening stage.
“At times it was dangerous how many people there were,” he reflected. “In Britain we’re not used to it, we see people on the mountains on the telly and think we can behave the same. But a 2km hill in Yorkshire is not the same as a 20km hill in the Alps. In Britain it becomes crowded.
“You can get right in the road when riders are coming up in ones and twos. But when the whole peloton’s together it’s pretty dangerous. And that’s what was happening in Yorkshire.”
Speaking of the chute that brought his race to an abrupt end, he said: “I didn’t watch [footage of] my crash for a while, I didn’t want to see it. In the past it would have been the end of my world.
“But my daughter, Delilah, she’s two-and-a-half, she put me right. She had this little nurse’s outfit, had the stethoscope out, wearing it the wrong way round over her head, and was going ‘daddy better’. I guarantee I recovered two weeks quicker because of that.”
Although it was Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel who won the sprint to take the yellow jersey in Harrogate and deny Cavendish the distinction of being just the third British rider to have worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours.
However, to the Manxman, the identity of the man who wins when he is out of the picture is immaterial.
“It doesn’t matter who wins it if I’m not,” he insisted. “Honestly, it is irrelevant to me. You have to remove the emotions from this. You concentrate just on yourself. I can’t wallow in anything, can’t worry about what others are doing.
“My job is to ride a bike. I have to get back to performing as soon as possible. That has to be the only focus.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.