Mark Cavendish is fighting his way back to fitness ahead of a hoped-for return to the Tour de France in 2015 after crashing out on the first day in 2014. Missing this year's Tour has made him realise just how important the race is to him, and made him “more intense” in his focus.
Reflecting on the crash that ended his 2014 Tour de France and road season, Cavendish told Will Fotheringham of the Guardian: “[Crashes] happen to everyone, but this was the first Tour de France I’ve missed since I turned pro. I’ve never taken [the Tour] for granted, it’s just given me a new lease of life. I just missed it so much, winning more than anything, the emotional rollercoaster, the spectacle that it is. It’s bigger than cycling. It’s something you can’t put into words.
“It’s made me not want to retire. I wasn’t ever thinking about retiring, but you start to think of the future, this has made me completely focus on cycling again. It’s not like I’ve lost any desire, but it’s made me more intense about it.”
That intensity manifested recently on the track at the Ghent Six, where Cavendish and partner Iljo Keisse finished second.
“I had to get riding again,” he said. “I had a forced three-week break where I should have been getting the fittest I can be in the season. Ghent gave me a short-term focus so that I’m not thinking I’ve got weeks and weeks to get fit. With Zurich, it’s a good block of work.”
But first he had to heal and recover from the injuries he sustained in Yorkshire.
“It was a grade four ligament separation – all four A/C joint ligaments were torn. The shoulder blade was sticking out. For a normal person the recovery is 12 weeks or something – six weeks in a sling before they can start physio. I was back on the bike on the turbo in 10 days – still in pain – and then it was just work, work, work trying to get to race again. It wasn’t difficult, it was just hard work. I had to work every hour of every day to get it back quick. It was time-consuming, but I had nothing else to do.”
Cavendish's 2015 season will start on January 20 in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis. The rest of his 2015 schedule is yet to be decided, but the Tour de France is clearly a target.
Then there's the world championships. British Cycling men's endurance coach Rod Ellingworth, who guided Cavendish to his first world championship victory, has the Omega-Pharma-Quickstep sprinter in mind as point man for the 2015 worlds in Richmond, Virginia and the following year's in Doha.
Cavendish is up for it. “I’d like to win the worlds again in the next couple of years [but] you have to remember that Copenhagen was four years to plan and it took a lot of everybody’s energy and time,” he said. “I don’t know how it works now, especially with the majority of guys riding for Sky. I don’t know if it will work as well as it did last time.”
But Cavendish isn't the only fast finisher Ellingworth has available. Ben Swift finished twelfth last year and must be a contender. Cavendish said: “We’ve definitely got the riders and I don’t think it’s just me who’s got the ability to be the winner out of the British team. I’d definitely like to give it a crack.”
His recent return to the velodrome doesn't presage a tilt at the track at the Rio Olympics though. For a professional road racer, his priority is the “day job” and balancing the call of country versus team obligations is tricky.
“I’m sure I could win it if I put myself to it, but I’ve worked hard with Omega-Pharma to build a team around sprint performance,” he said. “The team really look after me and do everything they can to make sure that I have what I need to win; my job is about giving back [for] their investment.
“I’d like to win it, being a British athlete and the Olympics being big in Britain, but the day job comes first. It can be easily talked about. I’d just have to call [OPQS head] Patrick [Lefevere].”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.