As a rule I steer clear of nostalgia. I’m not un-romantic but I find the fuzzy sentimentality of days gone by sickly and self-indulgent.
You won’t hear me wanging on about the past, and how great everything was before we had to worry about pandemics, algorithms, and pro cyclists getting thrown off bike races for giving souvenirs to roadside kids.
Oh no. I live FIRMLY in the here and now. Except when it comes to Mark Cavendish winning bike races. I make an exception for that.
Because for the past few years we’ve watched Cav – maybe the greatest sprinter of all time – battle illness, injury, and general mishap, and slip towards his mid-thirties and out of contention in bike races. Most of us wanted to see one last hurrah, as he took a place at new team Deceuninck Quickstep for 2021, but suspected we wouldn’t.
And then this week we got three, wonderful, beautiful hurrahs.
And we’re starting to think they might not be the last ones.
We watched him, at the Tour of Turkey, edging into position for a sprint, low on the bike, the old Cavendish charisma leaking from every pedal stroke. We yelled at our TV’s as he ducked and wove, chest over handlebars, and burst clear.
One glance at a rumbling finish straight peloton and it was clear: the image on our screen cross-referenced the memory bank of every Cav win we’ve ever seen and it was a match.
He glides, and weaves, picks his moment, and makes ONE big effort for the line. Gloriously, exuberantly, textbook Mark Cavendish. First on Stage 2, and then repeating the trick on Stages 3 and 4. Hat-tricks, at any level, in any race, being a rare thing in pro cycling. He might yet (at time of writing) win Stage 7, too.
And people, of course, say it’s only the Tour of Turkey. They are missing the point.
A Cavendish win is joyous and heartfelt, and context is everything. The slow building sense that we may never see him win another race, increasing year by year, was released this week like several million British revellers from a Covid-19 lockdown into the nearest pub: excitedly, and with great speed.Embed from Getty Images
Post-race, for three successive days, social media offered up a steady reel of trademark Cavendish: kisses and cuddles with teammates, dewy eyed podium shots, heart hanging raggedly from his sleeve.
This was nothing to do with ‘will Cav ride the Tour de France?’ and everything to do with Mark Cavendish just winning three successive bike races and all is well with the world. Well, apart from the pandemics, the algorithms, and the rest.
It makes me feel…what’s the word?
(Top Image: by Marc @ Flickr CC)