The Manx Master is still the best at ‘chess on wheels’ after 14 years

Mark Cavendish bridges a 14-year gap between first and most recent Grand Tour stage wins on the Giro's last day in Hungary.

by Jonny Long

photography by Getty Images


At what point is there nothing left to be said? Mark Cavendish has done it all, won it all, and for a period of time that defies any bike racer, any bike racer other than the soon to be 37-year-old from the Isle of Man.

With a kilometre and a half left to run, Cavendish was more than 30 riders back, but then the front of the race parted down the middle and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl surged, dragging their sprinter into fourth wheel with a few-hundred metres of tarmac between them and the line. From the time the Belgian squad hit the front, that was it, Cavendish opened his sprint with 300 m to go and no-one was going to get past him.

“If you have guys like this,” Cavendish said after the race, referring to his lead-out consisting of the likes of Michael Mørkøv and Davide Ballerini, “it makes me full of confidence, then I know it’s on me and there are no excuses. That’s nice, having a full team here like Fabio [Jakobsen], so it’s nice to be able to deliver.”

The whole question of Cavendish, the reigning green jersey, returning to the Tour de France will be one that bubbles along right up to the Grand Départ in Copenhagen. And with a full lead-out like today – remember Mørkøv wasn’t supposed to be at this Giro but was called up late – competition is healthy, despite warnings from Cavendish that he doesn’t want it blown out of proportion. Yet the irony is more wins will only increase talk.

“I’m old, but I am who I am, I win a lot,” Cavendish said in the post-race TV interview when the Tour topic was broached, and although the subject wasn’t followed up in the press conference, a question as to whether he’s the best sprinter in the peloton at the moment returned a similar answer.

“I think there are a few guys who are just as strong or fast, the strongest and fastest doesn’t necessarily mean the best,” Cavendish said. “I’ve never ever been the strongest or the fastest, but I win.”

“Caleb [Ewan] probably has the fastest legs, Fabio is maybe the strongest, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you win bike races. Sprinting is like chess on wheels, you work out how to be the strongest and fastest on the road.”

Cavendish says this year is about what works best for the team, which means he gets the Giro and Jakobsen is slated for the Tour, but you just know there is a certain bike race in July where the 34-time stage winner would love to win once again.

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