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Mark Cavendish talks overcoming depression

The Manx Missile says he has successfully come through a two-year battle with clinical depression.

The 34-year-old is just four stage wins shy of equalling Belgian legend Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories in the Tour de France.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic playing havoc with the sporting calendar — the Olympics have been postponed for a year, and UCI racing is still in flux — there is no guarantee the Isle of Man-born rider will get a chance to have a go at the record this year.

Mark Cavendish, though, is just happy that should the Tour go ahead, he will be in a healthy state of mind for the challenge facing him.

“It’s not just been my physical health which has been dealt a blow over the last couple of years,” he told reporters. “I’ve battled quite hard with depression during this time. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, in August 2018.”

Cavendish said he refused to take anti-depressants, but did seek expert counseling.

“I didn’t take any medication,” he said. “Like, this isn’t the time or place — we’ll do a thing on it at some point — but I received help.

“I was dark. And I’m on the other side, thank you. Well, as much as I can be. I think I’ve come out of that. And it’s nice to have come out of that. And to look for the positives.”

Not many positives can be taken from the coronavirus pandemic, but Cavendish has found one.

He is presently back at home in the Isle of Man having agreed — like his Bahrain-McLaren teammates — to take a wage deferral for three months, the size
of which is dependent on income, and individual circumstances.

“It could have been easy for me to go through my whole career and only see the kids once they’re teenagers,” said the father of three and who has a stepson.

“So to be able to absorb this… to be able to do what mums and dads do, it keeps me happy, it keeps me super motivated, and it keeps me sane, I guess.”

His old mentor, Rod Ellingworth, believes Cavendish was not far off the form of his peak year in 2016 when he won four stages on the Tour de France.

Ellingworth should know, as the two have been reunited with Cavendish at the Bahrain-McLaren team.

“His form is not like 2016, but he’s getting there,” said Ellingworth, who is the team general manager.

“If that [2016] was 10 out of 10, he’s somewhere like seven at the minute.

“He came to us [at] one or two out of 10, that’s physical, mental and the passion for it.

“So he’s progressing really well.”

The 2020 Tour de France is due to start on June 27.