Cycling: Mad Manx Cavendish settles scores

The world's greatest sprinter lets rip at sloppy journalists and jealous rivals

By the time you read next week's edition of
The Independent on Sunday, thanks to the time difference in Australia, the World Road Race will be over and a Briton could be donning the champion's jersey for the first time in 35 years.

"All this month my legs have felt hard, like they're made of steel," says Mark Cavendish as he stirs the ice in his coffee, just a few days before capturing the points jersey in the Tour of Spain. "It's like last year before I won Milan-San Remo; you just know when you've got good form, you don't do your legs any muscle damage with a hard ride, you can feel them getting stronger. And that's what's happening now."

As for the Worlds in Melbourne, Cavendish is realistic that with 3,000 metres of climbing, the outcome may not be decided by his speciality, a bunch sprint. "I'm not going into it thinking 'I'm going to win this'... but there's a chance."

As for those rivals who say the Manxman simply cannot climb well enough, the 25-year-old all but sniffs in disagreement. "People forget a lot of things. I'll win what I aim to win," he says, while recognising that with just two riders for support it will not be a disaster if he does not finish on top Down Under.

Although he has already donned the rainbow jersey of world champion on the track twice, Cavendish will not be lacking motivation. "The Worlds has always been a big thing for me. When I was at the Academy, I said to Rod [Ellingworth, the road coach] that I want to be world champion. Even after taking the track championships, the rainbow jersey you get doesn't have solid bands, like the one you get in the world [road] championships. I said to Rod, at least once in my life, I want those solid bands. I need them."

But if his Worlds dream hasn't changed since his amateur days, this year there has been a change, of sorts. Cavendish is famous for saying what he thinks without holding back, but in the Tour de France he avoided any verbal fireworks.

"It's all been about not giving people the fuel, so they can't criticise me, it's not worth it," he says. "The whole Tour, I said to myself 'I'll just do the usual bland staff, not talk, answer every question with I'm happy to be here'."

Cavendish claims some journalists regularly take his comments out of context and, as a regular trawler of the worldwide web, he gets very annoyed when he reads any misleading articles.

Here, at least, he lets rip: "If I've done something bad, and I get the shit for it, I don't care, it's when it's an ill-informed ignoramus who writes complete shit, someone who is so far off the truth it's not a fact, it's an opinion, that's what gets me.

"In my press conference in January I said that 2010 was all about the second half of the season [the Tours of France and Spain and the Worlds]. And there were still journalists who asked: 'Is Mark Cavendish in meltdown this spring?' "

He cites one particular run-in with a reporter: "In 2010 on the Champs Elysées stage, [this journalist] says someone has accused me of pulling [getting illegal tows] on cars.

"Are you fucking kidding me? If I go back, let alone if I'm dropped, I have two race officials, TV cameras, an ice-cream van and a marching band following me. How the fuck am I going to hold on to a car?

"[The journalist] comes out with that. How is that going to sell more newspapers? It certainly doesn't make him look like a good journalist, it makes him look like a cock, he's coming to try and ruin a sport. Go home and fucking write for a trashy magazine if you want to do that shit."

Cavendish's success rate is such that he is also coming across some increasingly nefarious attempts to lay him low in sprints. At least one team, he tells The Independent On Sunday, are trying to get him to lose by systematically lodging protests.

"They openly complain about every single thing and they openly admit it," he says. "I've spoken to guys in that team and say 'why do you do it?' and they said 'we've got to find a way to beat you'. That's not fair, and that's not sporting."

He says one particular team manager protests at Cavendish's sprints because he "tries to fuck with me at every possible opportunity, which is ironic considering he was a sprinter and I actually looked up to him. But now I have no respect for him".

The situation has got so bad, Cavendish says, that it's affecting the way he sprints. He cites one stage in the Tour of Spain where he failed to ride across the road to try and drop a rival shadowing him because he feared he would be penalised. "I'm terrified of doing anything now," he says. "I can't make a move like that and it puts me at a disadvantage."

Certainly race officials are not slow to react to any unusual manoeuvre by the British rider. When Cavendish "jumped" across the finish line to celebrate a win in Spain – an unusual celebration that put nobody at risk except himself – he nonetheless received a warning. Some sources said he had even risked an exclusion.

How will this all affect him at the Worlds? He shrugs his shoulders. "It's just how it is. I've never protested like that because I want to win sportingly and I always have done up to now."

Such is Cavendish's success that he has repeatedly been linked with the British Team Sky for 2011. But the HTC-Columbia rider says it's not happening. "There are rumours now, and there were rumours last year, but the thing is I'm not somebody who needs to go somewhere because of their nationality. Lots of Italian riders sign with Italian squads because they're Italian, French riders in French teams, British riders in British teams. I go wherever the best place is for me to be. Right now I like where I am and I'm here [at HTC] next year."

So no change there then, and whether Cavendish has really changed is certainly open to debate. But we will soon find out whether he is going to spend 2011 wearing a jersey with the rainbow stripes of world road champion for the first time.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone