I like Mark Cavendish.
I like the fact that he’s a cheeky monkey. I like the fact that he’ll tell you when you’re wrong. I like his strops, and tantrums, and the way they morph into softly-spoken paeans to his brothers-in-arms once they’ve sacrificed themselves in his service at the pointy end of a bike race.
He’s got heart, and soul.
I defer to Cav on almost all things cycling. Largely on account of his thirty Tour de France stage wins to my nil. Also because he’s much angrier than me.
There is one thing I need to pull him up on though.
One thing on which we disagree.
In a recent interview with Daniel Friebe on The Cycling Podcast he was bemoaning the fact that people are now writing him off; too old, too slow, too much the doting dad and not enough the scallywag street urchin.
He’s had a prolonged bout of Glandular Fever (aka Mono) which hasn’t helped, but basically he’s stopped winning bike races; going from productive winning machine one season to barely a sniff of a win for the last two.
‘They’re talking rubbish,’ says Cav.
Some swear words were said.
Pointing out that if he went from winning twenty races one year, to fifteen the next, then maybe five the year after that, that’s an obvious drop off. That’s someone on the slippery slope. Someone who’s lost it. But to go from winning a ton of races to almost zero points to illness.
‘How can I just lose it overnight? Are they seriously saying I’ve just lost it overnight?’ Again, paraphrasing.
‘People should just stick to the facts,’ says Cav.
Which is where we disagree.
Just imagine. Whenever the cyclists weren’t racing we’d have nothing to say. And mid-race, if the commentary team stuck to the facts:
Tim de Clercq is on the front now, with Oliver Naesen just behind him, and Naesen has just wiped his nose on his glove – his own nose, not de Clercq’s. They’re riding along a straight road, with fields on each side. Mark Cavendish is in forty-third position, and Bernie Eisel is next to him, and Cavendish just said something to Eisel and they laughed. It might have been quite interesting but we couldn’t hear it so we’ll never know. Peter Sagan has pulled to the side of the road now for a wee…
No. We have to breathe life into what we see and hear. We need speculation. Speculation is where the fun is. And we speculate about Cav because we actually care about whether he’s lost it or not. Most of us hope he hasn’t.
That’s the bit he’s missing.Embed from Getty Images
In our mind’s eye he’s on the Champs Elysees, twenty-four-seven, on a loop.
An entire peloton’s worth of pro cyclists are trailing in his wake, while lead-out man par excellance Mark Renshaw coasts in the background, arms aloft, job done, to complete perhaps the great finish-line photo.
We’re taking control of the Cav narrative to stop it hurting us; this is why we speculate.
If we didn’t, and we stuck to the facts, our mind’s eye would see Cav finishing twenty-sixth in a bunch sprint and raging against the dying of the light.
And none of us want that.
(Top Image: By William Morice – – 20e étape du Tour de France 2012, arrivée sur les champs Elysées à Paris lors de la dernière étape entre Rambouillet et paris les Champs Elysées le dimanche 22 juillet 2012 – © William Morice / MaxPPP, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20418047)