FOUGÈRES, France (VN) — Mark Cavendish is back to his old ways after winning his first stage in the Tour de France after a two-year drought.
Team Etixx-Quick-Step’s Brit counts 26 stage wins in the Tour, third only behind greats Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. Many of those wins, and losses, were often punctuated by his outsize personality.
“Every one of the wins in the Tour is important; one win makes a rider’s career,” Cavendish said from the Tour’s video cabin.
“To get one every year is a big, big thing. It’s been one of my longest runs over two years without a win. It feels good to win again, special too with my family here.”
Cavendish makes waves off the bike too. Often, his actions and words at the bus or in the press room make headlines on their own. Today was no different.
After answering a question, Cavendish spotted a journalist in the press room through the video link-up. He said, “Is someone there just wearing socks?”
Later, a journalist walked through the press room with only white socks and Cavendish laughed. Several journalists in the hot and sticky Tour pressroom also had stripped down to their bare feet to cool off.
Win or lose, Cavendish is the center of attention. He pointed out, to a bunch of journalists squeezed in around the Etixx bus Wednesday, that they would be better off — instead of focusing on his loss — writing about André Greipel’s win.
Journalists simply cannot ignore him with such a big palmarès that includes wins in Milano-Sanremo, the world championships, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España.
When one at the Tour de San Luis this year asked if he was 100 percent sure cyclists are not doping, he in return asked the journalist if he was “100 percent sure no one is f—king his wife.”
At the Tour, his actions and comments attract a much larger audience. Cavendish stormed on the HTC-Highroad bus and threw his helmet out once, and another time, with Omega Pharma, he took away a journalist’s voice recorder in the middle of a scrum.
In some winner’s press conferences during his Highroad years, he would give long pauses before answering. In one famous conference in 2011, he asked a journalist about his rash; he said another would get sued for libel, and added that his dog Amber had died the day before.
Cavendish, to his credit, has been calmer and cooler in the 2015 Tour, although not winning as much as in years past.
Rolf Aldag, Etixx’s sport and development manager told VeloNews that if he had won when he had his first chance, stage 2 to Zélande, then things would have come easier. That day, Cavendish sprinted early and faded to fourth. André Greipel (Lotto) took the stage win and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) took the bonus seconds, stopping Cavendish’s teammate Tony Martin from taking the yellow jersey.
In stage 5, Cavendish again went early. He took on Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ), but faded to see Greipel pass again.
Friday, just as in the press room, he was firing. Cavendish rode the wheels of the Katusha train and jumped Kristoff at the last moment. Greipel and Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) charged, but he waited long enough to sprint and was able to hold them off this time.
“I’ve been overanxious the last two times. Today was about not being impatient. In the Tour, if you go out early, you get washed out by 10 riders,” Cavendish said.
“I probably had the same power as the other day, but if you hit out early, you can’t do it. With the caliber of the sprints these days, if you go out early you will win maybe only one out of 10 times.”
It seems that Cavendish, both on and off the bike, is back in full color at the Tour de France.