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by Shane Stokes
January 28, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
Months after the Qatar world championships, Mark Cavendish has said that he rues the outcome of the race, believing that bad luck cost him a second rainbow jersey.
The Briton won the worlds in 2011 and was in prime shape for the Qatar race, which was run off on a flat, fast and wind-buffeted course. He made it into the decisive selection but, after the sprint opened, had to back off momentarily as he was hemmed in.
He was then able to get through but was unable to regain the lost ground to Peter Sagan, who took his second consecutive rainbow jersey.
Speaking at the recent Dimension Data training camp in Calpe, Spain, Cavendish admitted that he has struggled to accept the result.
“The worlds…I still haven’t watched that. I think…I don’t ever think I will,” he said.
“I still think I did everything right. I was just unlucky. Sometimes you get unlucky, sometimes you get lucky. It is easy to think that Sagan does the right thing, but in my eyes he got lucky.
“He will never say it because he is Sagan and he is one of the greatest bike riders that ever lived, but I think the circumstances were relevant to him winning the worlds last year. The circumstances that happened in the final…you can never predict. You can predict maybe the left gets blocked, you can predict maybe the right opens. They shouldn’t happen, it is a one in a thousand chance, but for the two to happen at the same time…on that finish, it never happens, so I can’t get my head around it.
“In my eyes, it was just the circumstances.”
Asked if he believes in luck and destiny, he said that at times he does. He believes the build-up to the race gave hints that it might not go to plan.
“Leading up to the worlds I was so sick. I had a campylobacter infection in my gut and was bedridden for five days. So even to get to the worlds was a big thing. Then I had a heavy crash on the Wednesday before the worlds. Really bad, I went down at 65 kilometres per hour.
“I look at those circumstances and someone was saying I was not meant to win the worlds. Now I think it.
“I am not really superstitious. I believe you make your own luck, but I don’t know. I can never figure out why I didn’t win the worlds. I don’t think I am bad at reading races, I don’t think I would do anything different. It is how it is.”
As soon as Cavendish crossed the line he offered a hand in congratulation to Sagan. The fact that the Slovakian was the one who took the title has made the outcome a little easier to accept.
“At the end of the day, we have got a good world champion,” he reasoned. “Sagan represents the jersey well. It is not like someone who wouldn’t represent the jersey well has won it.
“It is Peter Sagan, so at least I know my sport is represented well.”
Cavendish’s comments come from a longer sit-down interview with CyclingTips where he discussed a wide range of topics. These include newly-declared ambitions to chase the Eddy Merckx Tour de France stage win record, his changing approach to life and sport, the keys to his resurgence, the benefits of atypical off-bike pursuits and his goals for the season ahead. Click here to read the full interview.