When I found out Mr Mark Cavendish was the guest editor this month, it brought back certain memories. I have a huge amount of respect for Cav, but my memories stretch further back than most, as I have known him for 15 years. That’s terrifying. As a junior, I raced the British road race scene and it’s far from a secret I was British. Cav is one year older than me and though we would never be close to being rivals for a win today, back then it was a freefor-all – though I don’t remember ever beating him in a sprint.
Our first real interaction was riding for Team South West as a pseudo-Team GB at the junior World Cup Tour de Lorraine in May, 2003: Matt Brammeier, Bruce Edgar, Ed Perry, Cav and myself. After dreadful travel to the race, which involved an overnight ferry followed by the whole team being packed into the same car, everyone bar me was dropped on stage 1.
We were rubbish, but we had a laugh. Brammeier and Cav coined the nickname Twiggy for me mainly because I was skinny – or they were fat. But this experience of being away together helps create a bond.
I grew up in an incredibly supportive family atmosphere. Going to races was the highlight of the family week – something I perhaps took for granted as Cav and Brammeier used to show up having driven themselves to a race.
For qualification for the junior Worlds, a handful of riders had to perform effort tests at Manchester velodrome. These tests are usually about power to weight and do not suit a sprinter at all. Cav was told he was not very good. That this fat kid from the Isle of Man, who scientists said was not very good, who worked in a bank and drove himself to races is now so close to becoming the most successful Tour stage winner in history is testament to his determination and self-belief. How many young cyclists have simply thrown in the towel when told they don’t have it – whatever ‘it’ is – or face some other adversity. It’s no wonder Cav has crossed the line first so many times: his grit and natural determination to succeed is insatiable.
I have an incredible amount of respect for what he has achieved and how he has got himself there, but for me he is and always will be Cav: the loudmouth fat kid from the Isle of Man who calls me Twiggy.
Dan and Mark Cavendish go back 15 years, and used to race as juniors on the British scene