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Tour de France

Cavendish is a ‘hot-headed sprinter’ but a solid teammate

Despite his hot-headed ways, the consensus in the peloton is that Cavendish is a 'nice guy'

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PARIS (VN) — Obviously, he runs hot. Most sprinters seem to. At least the good ones. And obviously, Mark Cavendish is a good one.

It was a tougher Tour than most for Cav. He won two stages, but that’s his lowest total in five years. He leapt from the GC-minded Sky after last season, where he stuffed his world road champ jersey with bottles during last year’s Bradley Wiggins conquest of France, for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, where the team was at his beck and call. The results were mixed, and wins are wins, but the ever-mercurial Cavendish had plenty of activity at this Tour.

In short: He screamed about his bike while reporters could hear, he was accused of crashing Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) and took a reporter’s recorder when asked if it was his fault (the recorder was immediately given back), and had urine thrown on him during his time trial run to Mont-Saint-Michel.

He’s quick on the tongue after a stage, and can be ruthless with the press corps. There’s not a lot of middle ground on Cav, but does the Manx Missile get a fair shake, or are his post-stage exploits overly scrutinized?

“I find him fine,” said his former coach, Sky’s performance director Rod Ellingworth. “Just be honest with a guy, and straight with a guy, and it’s OK. You know, he’s a fiery guy. A way different character than Chris [Froome]. He wants to win in a different way.”

Teammates and coaches said much of the same, and that Cavendish was willing to go all in for his team, as they were for him.

“Oh god yeah,” Ellingworth said. “He takes people with him. And he’s a great person to give you a belief. He’s a winner, isn’t he? And he directs things, but he has that hot head on him, and he explodes. But that’s part of his character, which is pretty good I think.”

One who knows him better than most is Brian Holm, who used to direct the sprinter at HTC-Highroad and now again at Omega. “He’s one of the easiest riders I’ve ever worked with,” Holm said. “He’s really easy to work with in every direction. Of course, part of his image, because people judge him first 30 minutes after a race. But ask his teammates, people who know him, everybody know he’s got a heart of gold. And he’s one of the boys. Whatever happened a half an hour after a race, I wouldn’t judge him.”

Teammate Niki Terpstra said Cavendish moved into the team smoothly over the winter, and that when it’s good times, it’s sweaty man hugs all around.

“He adapted really good in the team over the winter, I have to say. There was a good connection. He’s an emotional guy, you know. When it’s going well, he’s — yeah. He gives you a sweaty man hug. But if it’s not gong well, he doesn’t react so much on us,” Terpstra said. “If we do an effort, if we put ourselves 100 percent in the effort and it doesn’t work out, he’s not angry. But if we are lazy or something and we f— it up, then he’s angry. Because he wants commitment. But he’s lucky everybody on this team has commitment. It doesn’t give too many problems.”

Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge) said sure, Cav is quick on Twitter after a stage, but that perhaps that just comes with the territory of being one of the world’s best sprinters.

“One-on-one with him, he’s just a really nice guy. We don’t have any problems with him on our team,” Lancaster said. “He’s just a hot-headed sprinter. History has shown they’re all the same.”

Of course, Cavendish just wins more than most.