Cavendish says he’s been ‘relatively unchallenged’ in sprinting, but now needs to work hard to remain ahead
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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Cavendish says he’s been ‘relatively unchallenged’ in sprinting, but now needs to work hard to remain ahead

by VeloNation Press at 9:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
“Now people are challenging my position as the most dominant sprinter in the world”

Mark CavendishPreviously regarded as the fastest sprinter in the world, Mark Cavendish was deposed of that title in the Tour de France this year when Marcel Kittel clocked up four stage wins. The Manxman has accepted that he no longer has the same jump that he had, and that he now needs to work hard in order to raise his game and to be able to challenge his improving sprint rivals in 2014.

“I feel that I’m getting older,” Cavendish told the Telegraph. “I don’t have the punch. I have to work on my sprint now, which I didn’t have to do before.”

The 28 year old had a slowdown in his Tour de France stage collection this year. He clocked up four wins in 2008, then twelve months later took a staggering six. Five followed in both 2010 and 2011, then three last year.

His two stages this year represented his lowest per-Tour total since 2008. In addition to that, he suffered his first-ever defeat on the Champs Elysees, with his bid to add a sixth straight victory in Paris being foiled by Kittel and the runner-up, Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).

A couple of seasons ago Cavendish dismissed Greipel as someone who only wins ‘shit-small’ races. Things have changed, with the German rider taking a total of five stage victories from the past three Tours, as well as a host of other successes.

He’s a concern, and so too Kittel plus the 2012 and 2013 Green Jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and others.

Cavendish is still far more successful than any of them in terms of total stage wins, having clocked up 25 at the Tour since 2008. He has been tipped as someone who could challenge Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories at the Tour, but knows that he has to get back up to top speed if he is to make sure of that.

Fortunately, he recognises the threat and resolves to work even harder. He said that he no longer draws on rage, but gets a lot of motivation from the desire to prove a point.

“My stepson, if he can’t do something, he just says ‘I’m not doing it’. I was the exact opposite. If I couldn’t do anything, I had to do it,” he said, talking about his mentality.

“I’ve really learnt to control anger, it’s a waste of energy. But when I’ve got a point to prove, that will still be the case. I’ve been relatively unchallenged until now, and now people are challenging my position as the most dominant sprinter in the world.”

He explained that he feels he has an advantage over some of his rivals, namely a strong memory for details about sprints he’s done and the circuits he is racing on as being relevant. So too having a problem solving obsession.

“For me, it’s like a calculation, a series of movements, a series of chess moves. Not thinking, not having to react. Just reacting. By the time we start the sprint, my heart rate is probably twenty or thirty beats slower than the other guys. So many cyclists train their bodies. They don’t train their mind. I constantly do puzzle books. Smash through them. My iPad’s full of them. Logic puzzles. Bridges. Slitherlink,” he said.

“I play Scrabble against random opponents, and if I lose that I’m as p----- off as if I lose a Tour de France stage.”

He’s also got a very aerodynamic profile when sprinting, as well as a driving need to be the best. As for self confidence, he has that in spades too.

Asked if he is a genius, he gave a quick answer. “Last time I did an IQ test I was, yeah.”

His challenge now is showing sprinting brilliance again in 2014 and reclaiming his crown as the Tour’s top sprinter.

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