Ride The Fury Road – The Mark Cavendish Story
I’d landed an interview with Mark “The Manxman” Cavendish, the fastest man on two wheels. Cavendish is cocky, brash and outspoken, and has a reputation of being “a bit of a bastard” to interview.
He was in South Africa to race in 2015’s Cape Town Cycle Tour with his Belgian team, Etixx– Quick-Step, and I knew if I asked him a “So, how do you like it in South Africa?” question he’d probably just get up and leave. I had to hit him harder than that. “Do you believe in fairies?”
The man with 26 Tour de France stage wins under his belt stared at me. It was clear he had never been asked that question before. My punch had landed. He narrowed his eyes.
“If you’re talking about the Isle of Man ones, I always say hello to them ones when I cross the bridge. I say, ’Moghrey Mie Vooinjer Veggey’ [which in Manx is ’Hello, little people’].”
I’d tamed the Manxman. Now my interview with the most famous bloke from the Isle of Man since the Bee Gees could really begin.
Cavendish was in South Africa to add the Cape Town Cycle Tour to his list of achievements. South Africa has become a cycling safari of sorts, with an endless supply of world-class mountain bike routes and the most scenic passes for roadies. People come from all over the planet to ride here.
These tracks and trails are right in your backyard – from cycle paths, breathtaking climbs to single-track heaven that the rest of the world’s cyclists can only dream of. Saddle your steed along one of the the country’s unique trails, and you’ll see it was built with cycling in mind.
In 2015, Cavendish was outsmarted and outsprinted in the Cape Town Cycle Tour by local rider Nolan Hoffman. He won’t lose sleep about not having that win – or at least, not yet – but there is one achievement missing from his CV that is causing him sleepless nights: the Moby Dick this 30-year-old pro cyclist is hunting is an Olympic medal.
“It’s got to the point, that even if it’s in synchronised swimming… an Olympic medal is the only thing I’m missing,” he told The Telegraph. In the meantime he has made a bold move by jumping ship; he left Etixx– Quick-Step to join the tiny Dimension Data (formerly MTN-Qhubeka). On the face of it, the move might seem a bit like Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for Orlando Pirates.
Except that it isn’t.
In his autobiography, Boy Racer, he wrote that he was written off as fat and useless in his youth– and that drove his hunger for success.
What can Cavendish teach you about success? Be furious. Tap into your anger: when your legs start to give up and your chest is about to explode, your fury will separate you from the part-timers taking a breather at the bottom of the hill. Cavendish has shown that success doesn’t have to be pretty. Sometimes it’s screaming “Fuuuuccck” as you power towards the finish line.
When he won his first TdF stage in 2008, becoming the first Brit to triumph in a bunch sprint since 1975, he laid the ghost of the “little fat kid” to rest. And now the bad boy of cycling has something to prove all over again.
That hunger still drives Cavendish as he pursues an Olympic medal. The Manxman may not have bitten anyone, but he has a sharp tongue and a reputation for being aggressive on the bike (his elbows have caused a sprinter or two to hit the deck during a race to the finish line).
The peloton protested against his behaviour after he was accused of causing a mass crash in the Tour of Switzerland in 2010. He has also angered some cycling fans – with one pissed-off spectator apparently drenching him in urine while racing in Normandy in 2013.
In November 2015, just after signing a three-year contract with Dimension Data, Cavendish flew into South Africa with the rest of the team for a training camp. At one of the first functions to introduce the team, I accidentally stood on someone’s foot. I looked up and found myself staring into Cavendish’s face. I paused, preparing for an attack. After all, my interview hadn’t ended so well when I mentioned that he’d made a few foes over the years. “Who are me foes?” he’d spat. The PR person who’d set up the interview thought the he was going to slug me. And now, seven months later, I’ve gone and stepped on his foot.
I braced myself for a punch. But instead of balling a fist he simply looked me up and down and said, “Sorry.”
Sorry? I’d trodden on his foot and he was apologising?
Over the next few days, social media lit up with selfies local riders took with a grinning Cavendish, with comments about how friendly and relaxed the great sprinter had been.
Taking out your anger on the road or mountain is one of the most effective ways to de-stress. The Isle of Man’s most famous export may yet have something to prove, but he has mellowed. The Manxman is no longer fast and furious. He’s just fast.