Is this the end for Cav?

Sport re­acts as Manx­man raises prospect he may not have a ride in 2021, writes James Shrub­sall

Cycling Weekly - - WELCOME -

Mark Cavendish’s emo­tional dec­la­ra­tion that “that was per­haps my last race” af­ter Ghent-wevel­gem on Sun­day sparked an out­pour­ing of warmth to­wards a rider who has long been a na­tional trea­sure for Bri­tish bike rac­ing fans. Many took to so­cial me­dia with mes­sages of sup­port for the Bahrain-mclaren rider, re­flect­ing on how much he meant to them, and with hopes that he would be able to con­tinue rac­ing that were echoed by some of the sport’s big­gest com­men­ta­tors.

“It was up­set­ting to see, first and fore­most, no­body likes to see my grand cham­pion in tears like that,” said for­mer team man­ager and com­men­ta­tor Brian Smith. “This was a year that he wanted to get back to the top of cy­cling, and he hasn’t been able to do that. I think he was re­ly­ing on some of these races at the back end of the sea­son to show what he could do.”

Com­men­ta­tor Phil Liggett said he hoped Cavendish had been speak­ing in the mo­ment and that he would find a way to con­tinue: “I’m hop­ing it’s an emo­tion, which is nat­u­ral. Be­cause he’s strug­gled with his sick­nesses and find­ing his form again. As I said in that lit­tle tweet, he’s a cham­pion, and still is, he’s a ter­rific am­bas­sador of our sport.” As things stand Cavendish, 35, will be out of con­tract at the end of the year. Over the past few sea­sons he has had a tor­rid time at the hands of the Ep­stein Barr virus, which first flared up in 2017 and con­tin­ued to dog him in 2018. Last year he had hoped he had beaten it but was un­able to re­find the form he last en­joyed in 2016, when he won four stages of the Tour de France with Di­men­sion Data. The fi­nan­cial com­plex­i­ties ex­pe­ri­enced by teams be­cause of Covid-19 – plus an un­pre­dictable race cal­en­dar – will only have ex­ac­er­bated the sit­u­a­tion.

Team boss Rod Elling­worth told Eurosport that dis­cus­sions were on­go­ing and that the next few weeks would be crit­i­cal for all riders out of con­tract – but he de­clined to com­ment any fur­ther on Cavendish’s sit­u­a­tion at the team.

With the end of the sea­son fast ap­proach­ing and with races be­ing can­celled or put in doubt due to the pan­demic, Cavendish may have con­sid­ered Ghen­twevel­gem his last good op­por­tu­nity to se­cure the re­sult that would con­vince Bahrain to keep him on.

“I think Mark was look­ing for a per­for­mance that would have showed them [at Ghen­twevel­gem],” said Smith, who was gen­eral man­ager at Di­men­sion Data dur­ing part of Cavendish’s time there. And the Scots­man em­pha­sised

how much more the ‘Manx Mis­sile’ had to of­fer the sport – even if he was no longer the fastest rider in the world: “He’s quite pre­pared to muck in and get his hands dirty and help other peo­ple.

You know, it’s not just all about Mark Cavendish. I think there is an­other few years left for him – maybe not in the main sprinter’s role, but maybe as a kind of men­tor within the team. Just to sup­port some of the younger sprint­ers.”

It cer­tainly feels like a rather sad way for a rider who is an all-time great to bow out – forced by cir­cum­stance and ill­ness, and with lit­tle warn­ing.

“He de­serves a bet­ter send-off,” said Sir Bradley Wig­gins on his pod­cast The Bradley

Wig­gins Show. “Mark’s like my lit­tle brother. It’s not nice see­ing him cry on telly like that.”

His words were echoed by Liggett: “He shouldn’t leave our sport in this man­ner be­cause he’s a pretty spe­cial per­son. Win­ning 30 stages of the Tour... he’s been a world cham­pion. There’s a bet­ter way out for him than this,” he told CW.

If he has to re­tire, Liggett said that he hoped Cavendish would stay in the sport, per­haps as a tech­ni­cal ad­viser. “I hope he would stay. When sprinter Rob­bie Mcewen re­tired, he stayed on at Greenedge to tell sprint­ers how to sprint in the big races, how to read the fin­ishes and where to go. It’s not al­ways in­stinct even to some of the fastest fin­ish­ers in the world – they’ve got to be shown. Mark’s got that in­stinct.”

Smith, how­ever, was less sure that Cavendish would re­main in cy­cling. “I think he needs other chal­lenges,” he said. “I think he’ll look for some­thing else – maybe he’ll do some­thing like Chris Hoy is do­ing, in mo­tor rac­ing – he may do some­thing in mo­tor­bik­ing or some­thing like that.”

At the time of go­ing to press Cavendish was still down to ride Schelde­prijs. A good ride there would be neatly sym­met­ri­cal for a rider whose first ma­jor re­sult as a pro­fes­sional came in ex­actly that race.

“He shouldn’t leave our sport in this man­ner. He’s a very spe­cial per­son”

Was Cav’s day in the break at Ghent-wevel­gem his last?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.