Tour de France 2020

PYSO, ep. 68: Mark Cavendish says “bunch sprinting is the only part of cycling left that uses pure tactics”

Cavendish has won 30 stages of the Tour de France, a race he says he owes everything to in his career.

Mark Cavendish has won 30 stages of the Tour de France. This places his second in the all-time record behind Eddy Merckx — or first in the all-time record if you are only counting mass-start stages and not time trials as well.

Cavendish is not racing the Tour de France this year, and on this episode of Put Your Socks On the veteran sprinter reflects with Bobby and Gus about the special dynamics of the Tour — “I owe the Tour de France everything in my life” — the struggles he’s faced both on and off the bike, and the special people he considers friends like Bernie Eisel and George Hincapie.

Cavendish talks about how track racing prepared him to sprint at the Tour, in terms of leg speed and tactics.

Cavendish says his top end power is relatively low for a Tour sprinter, but he can sustain it for a long time. “It’s rare I’ll get over 1,400 watts, you know, but I can average over 1,200 for 15 seconds, whereas guys like [Andre] Greipel would go 2,000 and then quickly drop down to 1,000 or 900,” he says.

Cavendish talks about the special dynamics of sprinting at the Tour de France compared to other races, where most teams are balancing interests in the general classification along with other goals.

And Cavendish defends the complexity and excitement of bunch sprints against the armchair commentators who say flat stages are boring.

“Anybody who says a bunch sprint is boring is not intelligent enough to understand what’s going on in a bunch sprint,” he says. “For me, bunch sprinting is the only part of cycling left that uses pure tactics. You know, even a mountain stage is literally a time trial where everyone starts together. It’s a physical thing. You can do it or you can’t, it’s as simple as that. You know what power you can pull out and you do that, and whoever can hold the highest threshold wins. And sprinting is a lot more dynamic.”

Tune in for a special Tour de France edition of Put Your Socks On with Mark Cavendish.