Happy birthday Mark Cavendish: 28 years and 101 wins

Regular followers of VeloVoices will know that I’m quite a big fan of Mark Cavendish – the term ‘man-crush’ is often bandied about by my fellow Voices – and so it falls to me to pen a few words about him on his 28th birthday today.

Where do I start? His 101 wins in 6½ years since turning pro? How about his 40 victories at the three grand tours – sixth all-time, the most among active riders and the second-youngest rider to reach this milestone after Eddy Merckx? Or the rainbow jersey he won in the road race at the 2011 World Championships, only the second British rider ever to do so?

There’s no question he’s the finest sprinter of his generation, and a reasonable case can be made to argue that he’s the best fast-twitch man ever. But more than his undoubted speed, this is a man with an unquenchable desire to win. He is the best at what he does by miles – or, at least, a couple of bike lengths – and stands comparison with sporting legends past and present such as Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Don Bradman and Pele. He wins when he should win, but he also wins in situations which any other rider would give up as a lost cause. He’s as devastating behind a sprint train as Mario Cipollini ever was, and as tough and instinctive as Robbie McEwen when left to fend for himself.

But don’t just take my word for it – trust the evidence of your own eyes …

Cav’s magnificent seven

To celebrate Cav’s birthday I’ve selected seven of his best victories, one for each year since he turned pro in 2007. Which is your favourite? Vote in the poll below.

2007: Scheldeprijs

This was the snowflake that started the avalanche of victories: the one-day semi-classic Scheldeprijs. Cavendish unleashed his now-familiar finishing kick to beat Robbie McEwen, Gert Steegmans (his lead-out man at the current Giro) and the late Wouter Weylandt.

2008: Tour de France, stage 5

Cavendish’s first Tour de France win. French champion Nicolas Vogondy, the last survivor of the day’s break, was heart-breakingly caught inside the last 50 metres. With sprinters of the calibre of Thor Hudhovd, Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire firing off all over the place, Cav held his nerve to take his maiden Tour win. 22 more have followed since, putting him fourth all-time in Tour stage victories and top amongst sprinters.

2009: Milan-San Remo

With the full backing of his Columbia-High Road team, Cavendish survived the Cipressa and the Poggio with enough in reserve to overcome Heinrich Haussler’s long-range sprint and pip him at the line.

2010 Tour de France, stage 20

The second of his record four consecutive victories on the Champs-Élysées, and one earned without a dominant lead-out train. What makes this finish so special is the camera angle. The side-on view shows Thor Hushovd being led out by a Cervelo teammate. The green jersey of Alessandro Petacchi inches closer just as Cavendish flies into and out of the shot with a stunning burst of pace. Manx Missile, indeed! (Start the video at about the 9:30 mark.)

2011 World Championships road race

Cavendish started as favourite on this rare sprinter-friendly Worlds course. Team GB were forced to do most of the work throughout the race. But in a frenetic bunch sprint, Cavendish waited patiently before launching a huge effort from well back in the line to hold off Matt Goss and become only the second British rider (after Tom Simpson) to pull on the rainbow stripes. (Start the video at about the 5:20 mark.)

2012 Tour de France, stage 18

Sometimes it’s not just about speed. Sometimes it’s about strength, determination and the ability to make the right decisions under extreme pressure. With 2km to go, it looked like no one would catch a six-man break which included Nicolas Roche, Luis Leon Sanchez and 2013 Giro stage winner Adam Hansen. But teammate and yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins ensured he entered the final kilometre with half a chance, and Cavendish did the rest, launching a series of bursts as he hopped from one wheel to another to overhaul Roche and Sanchez inside the final 100 metres. (Start the video at about the 35:20 mark.)

2013 Giro d’Italia, stage 1

Another victory manufactured from sheer willpower. Cavendish lost lead-out man Gert Steegmans with a mechanical in the final kilometre and had to bridge a gap into a headwind with those ahead of him already at full lead-out speed. Somehow he still had the legs to launch his sprint from half a dozen lengths back to claim the first maglia rosa of this year’s Giro. (Start the video at about the 1:10 mark.)

So there you have it: Mark’s Magnificent Seven. But which do you think is his best victory ever? Cast your vote in the poll below!

6 thoughts on “Happy birthday Mark Cavendish: 28 years and 101 wins

  1. Janet Mozelewski says:

    Really enjoyable compilation. Thanks! He is so good there is a danger of taking his wins for granted these days.
    Already spectacular wins in 2013. So much so that its tough to choose just one from even this year. Stage 1 Giro was immense. But I think Stage 13 was totally Epic and edges it for me. One of those rare times when Cav truly empties the tank. Another jaw-dropping win was the final stage in Qatar back in February….a sign of things to come.

    • Both alternatives you mention were indeed memorable. It’s so easy to get the (false) impression that most of Cav’s wins are routine ones from behind a sprint train. Many of them are, but there are also many tank-emptying efforts which are the ones which truly set him apart – such as the 2012 option in the poll, that immense last km charge at Brive.

  2. Janet Mozelewski says:

    That one is my favorite. Sublime. Cav once said he rarely empties the tank unless its the last day of a grand tour. (Not counting one day classics etc of course) Always has to save something. Which is what makes stage 13 of this giro so remarkable. Especially seeing what trials awaited. IF he can win Red this year on this Giro course it will be his greatest ever accomplishment imo. Especially given that giro points comp is much less sprinter-friendly than that of the Tour.

    • If he can get over the mountains and target the win in Brescia, he has a chance. Yes, we have big mountain stages to come but we could well see a break survive to the finish (probably on stage 19) and mop up the big points that will benefit Cav. To complete the set of grand tour points jerseys would be an immense achievement, for sure. He only missed out by one point last year!

  3. Natalie says:

    Thanks a lot for this post! Really enjoyed it!
    And I would add a couple of stages to this list 😉
    2012 Tour de France, stage 2 and, yes, stage 13 of this year Giro 🙂

    • No problem – glad you liked it! It was fun writing it.

      Both your suggestions were great wins for Cav. All I can say is that it was really difficult only selecting one finish for each year!

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