Mark Cavendish says it's time to stop rattling the skeleton's in cycling's closet and that the sport concentrate on the present rather than looking back at the past. The former world champion, never afraid to take up what some might view an unpopular position, rejects the idea of inviting dopers to own up to their past sins in his latest autobiography, At Speed, published today, because, he says, it won't work.
Cavendish may still be 28, but it's his second autobiography. A lot’s happened the four years since the earlier Boy Racer – not least his becoming a father and getting married.
On the bike, there have been the highs of a 2011 season in which he won the coveted green and rainbow jerseys and the lows of an unhappy 2012 with Team Sky, a year in which he also missed out on Olympic gold were dashed.
That earlier autobiography was published in 2009 and originally carried the endorsement “Cool Kid” on the cover from one Lance Armstrong. Unsurprisingly, that’s been excised from copies currently on sale.
In his latest book, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider shares his thoughts on the Texan’s fall, the subject of an extract published on Telegraph.co.uk that also sees him question tennis’s commitment to anti-doping.
He also gives his thoughts on the prospect of an amnesty to allow former dopers to come forward, something originally floated after the United States Anti-Doping Agency published its reasoned decision in the Armstrong case, and now back on the agenda following Brian Cookson's election as UCI president. Cavendish says:
It sounds like a nice idea but it’s not going to work. Why? One word: ego. Even now, when they’ve retired and there’s no threat of sanctions or public humiliation, riders cling to their careers because that’s what their identity has been constructed on. They’re terrified of losing it all.
So what do we do with the skeletons in cycling’s closet? Mine might not be a popular view, but sometimes I wonder why we insist on rattling them around and whether the time hasn’t come to simply concentrate on the present. To me, it’s gone far beyond the point where the soul-searching has become useful to the sport.
In another of three extracts from the book that appeared on the newspaper’s website yesterday, Cavendish detailed his experience riding with Team Sky during the 2012 Tour de France.
Issues he addresses include the relationship between Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, the lack of support he got from then Sky sports director Sean Yates, and the day he realised that it might be the one and only edition of the race he would ride with the British team:
On stage six a huge crash 26 kilometres from the finish left dozens injured and even more delayed behind the pile-up ruled out of contention for the win.
I had made it around the wreckage but to do so had skidded on my rear wheel, causing the tyre to explode. I reached for my radio and announced that I’d punctured. I heard nothing so I repeated what I’d just said, all the time trying to cling on to the back of the lead group while riding on a flat.
For a few hundred metres I was hanging in there, until the road began to descend and I could no longer stand the pace with no air in my tyre. Finally, having remained silent in the radio the whole time, Yates arrived in our first team car, waited while the mechanic swapped my wheel, then drove immediately off without even giving me a push.
I had never been left stranded like that after a mechanical, not even as a 22-year-old neo-pro in a tiny one-day race in France. Here we were at the Tour de France, on a stage that I was the favourite to win, and I was the world champion. I was heartbroken.
In another passage, he reveals how his vanity – born partly from the unwelcome realisation his looks were being compared to Bingo from cult kids’ TV series the Banana Splits – led to him deciding to undergo cosmetic dentistry treatment which, once infection set in, wrecked the start to his 2010 season, including the defence of his Milan-Sanremo title. The problem manifested itself on his way to Majorca for a training camp:
By the end of the camp I was already 1,000, maybe 2,000 kilometres behind schedule, and had jeopardised the first two or three months of the season. All because I didn’t like the way my teeth looked in photos.
At Speed by Mark Cavendish is published by Ebury Press on 7 November 2013.
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.