What I’ve learned: Mark Cavendish

by Shane Stokes


Mark Cavendish is arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, having clocked up 30 Tour de France stages in bunch finishes. He is now just four off the all-time record of Eddy Merckx and recently said that he believes that mark is within his reach.

Cavendish is also a multiple world champion on road and track and took the silver medal in last year’s Omnium event at the Rio Olympics. A driven, focussed individual, he is regarded as one of the big characters in the sport.

He gives an insight into his mind, his motivation and his life lessons in the first of our new What I’ve Learned series. Future articles will seek to identify other key pointers, episodes and influences from other great champions in the sport.


Family is the most important thing. Family is everything. I think you can never imagine life without kids when you have kids. You think, ‘why didn’t I have them sooner?’ I know everyone says that, but really… It is as simple as this: we are basic, we should reproduce. You don’t realise until you have kids that they are everything.

My main interest away from cycling is my family. My wife is my idol. It is incredible how she looks after three young kids and then a big kid. She will cook four different meals. We have got an 11 year old, a four year old and a 31 year old…

She comes to see me on the Grand Tours. It is never a stress. She makes it look easy. She is super intelligent, she makes me laugh. She keeps me just going. And my kids are just everything to me. Everything.

In many ways my family has helped me be more accepting of when I don’t win. There is more than cycling now. I can turn off. It doesn’t matter how I have done in races…I am still Daddy to my kids, I am still Mark to my wife. That helps. I can cope. I do love my sport. I can be disappointed, but I don’t really get too angry any more.

When I’m at home I don’t really want to do anything other than be around my family. I don’t see them enough. I saw them between 60 and 70 days between the first of November in 2015 and the first of December 2016. So in 13 months I saw them 60-something days. People don’t really see that.

When you count it down, it is not much at all. And that is including coming out to the Tour de France stages and that. I just want to spend time with them.

I’ve learned not to take trust for granted. Even with those closest to you, never trust them 100 percent because you are setting yourself up to be hurt. I should add that I’m speaking more professionally than privately.

Life is what you make of it. You make your own luck. I truly believe if you want something bad enough, you can do it. You just have to work hard. Okay, there are physiological factors, but I truly believe any of the cyclists training here [at a pre-season camp in Calpe – ed.]… if they wanted to be a footballer, they can do it.

They are not going to be Ronaldo, that is something different, but they could be professional footballers if they work hard enough. I truly believe that. If you want something, you can do it.

I’ve learned it is important to take the chip off your shoulder. Everybody is not against you. Try to take a step back and see that the world is not against you.

I’m from the Isle of Man and I think it is may be a Gaelic thing to have a chip. But I always had to fight too. I still do now. If I think back, at 14 people were saying I wouldn’t be a cyclist. And then to think last year I still had to jump through hoops to go to the Olympics. At 31 I still deal with the same things.

I will say that I don’t have a gash on my shoulder like I used to, it’s less than before. I still have a chip, but it is all right.

That said, without that chip when I was young, there is not a chance I would have been as successful as I was. That was a big part of the hunger to win. The hunger is still there, but I do have other things in my life now.

Part of getting over it is just growing up. You do grow up. Also, with that growing up comes family. On a side note, people forget that I was winning when I was very young. Okay, I had worked in a bank, I had lived away in other countries. But I was still quite institutionalised, I’d just had my focus on cycling.

I was very young when I started winning. Now when I look back at the old me, I don’t really like it. But I was very young at the time and you are put right there in the spotlight. You can’t do anything without it being there for everyone to see.

I think the main thing I learned from life is this: if somebody is prepared to comment on my personality when they don’t even know me, it is not worth caring what that person thinks.

It’s not worth caring because they are not really worth caring about.

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