Today, We Spell Redemption "C-A-V"

Jul 9 2010

Mark Cavendish and his bookThere seems to be a consensus among a certain group of American fans that being a sprinter is almost shameful. They rely entirely on talent. They never have to put their noses in the wind, just go fast for 200m at the end. It’s too easy. Their teammates do all the work. They make the flat stages boring.

But I think—or at least hope—that impression took a serious hit after the finish of Stage 5. To see Mark Cavendish, one of the loudest and cockiest speed merchants in recent memory bawling on the podium as if Publisher’s Clearing House had just paid a visit to his mobile home, should give the sprint-haters pause.

Let’s be clear about this—Cavendish is has won 11 stages of the Tour de France. That’s one win shy of the total accrued by Miguel Indurain, who took the whole enchilada five times running. Yesterday’s finish was not a one-off dream win by a lesser-known rider from a lower-tier team in his hometown; it was another bike-length victory from a man who, since 2008, has made winning sprints about as remarkable as packing a lunchbox.

So why the tears? Indurain was 26 years old when he won his first Tour; Cav is currently 25. Before him, the sport has raised up and summarily cast down any number of young sprinters. While he’s reinvented himself as a SaxoBank domestique, Baden Cooke’s brilliant performance at the ’03 Tour never did see a proper follow-up. Ivan Quaranta, once hailed as Cipollini’s comeuppance, made his final top-level start (getting shelled from a TTT at the ’03 Vuelta) while the Lion King (at the ripe old age of 36) still wore rainbow stripes. And has anyone seen Tom Boonen toward the front of Grand Tour recently?

Baden Cooke straddles the toptubeAs Petacchi (again, age 36) rolled past Cav to two wins in the first week of this year’s Tour, the Manxman couldn’t have escaped the feeling that this all might be a little bit of history repeating. Certainly his 2010 season to date had not been up to par, grabbing headlines more for comments and behavior than results, and finding himself, unusually, tied up in crashes and an intrasquad feud.

In the classics, time lost on a bad line through a corner can be regained over cobbles or a berg. In the mountains, you can ignore the bursts of your rivals and pull them back at your own pace, or limit your losses if you can’t. In the time trial, checkpoints and the radio let you mete out each individual watt with scientific precision. As a long breakaway comes into the line, tactical savvy plays as much of a role as pure power.

But group printers can cling to none of these other factors—there’s nerve, and there’s power. You get a split second to chose whether to jump or wait, go left or right, grab this wheel or that. There’s no real way to train those things, and when you lose it, it’s impossible to know whether it’s gone for a for a week, for a season, or forever.

So congrats to Cav—with a serious nod to his helmsman Mark Renshaw—for bridging that abyss yesterday. Sure, he had a little help from a Garmin-Transitions squad beset by injury and a bit of miscommunication, but the bounce-back is still notable, as evidenced by the fact that so many riders before him have failed to pull it off.

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12 Responses to “Today, We Spell Redemption "C-A-V"”

  1. gob 9 July 2010 at 9:13 am #

    I love sprinters. When I raced, I was a sprinter. I still can sprint pretty well on a group ride, and it doesn’t bother me if I do or don’t see any wind prior to the town line.

    But I can’t escape the fact that Cav is a spoiled dick. Winning one stage doesn’t redeem anything, doesn’t make his throwing his helmet any cooler, doesn’t make his shit talking about Hushovdt’s green jersey last year any less petty, doesn’t make me like him again.

    He’s a great sprinter, but all evidence points to him being a shitty person, and I can’t root for that. If he learns some humility and class, then I can maybe get behind him, but for now, I’m rooting for ABC. Anybody But Cav.

  2. Big Mikey 9 July 2010 at 9:17 am #

    The guy’s a talent, no doubt. But it sounds like you’re comparing Cavendish’ record to Indurain, which is misleading. Sprinters tend to be more prolific in their wins due to the nature of the type of race.

  3. Coramoor 9 July 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    I never understood Cav giving Hushovd shit about the green jersey seeing as he already had one from back in 05, and this year, if Cav wins by less than 35 points to Hushovd, Hushovd could say the same thing back, but he won’t most likely cause he’s a far classier guy

  4. mattio 9 July 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    I think Cav has some maturing to do. He was a petulant brat, for sure – throwing his helmet when he was beaten by Petacchi rather than use it as a lesson that hey, so he might have a bad season, but he also might have another ten to fifteen seasons left in his legs…

    But Cav the petulant brat is more fun as a scrubby underperformer who cries on the podium than the one who plans his victory salutes.

    More than anything, though, his victories the past two days leave me in awe of Renshaw. Such great work, especially for Stage 5.

  5. joe 10 July 2010 at 4:27 am #

    I thought Renshaw’s poor leadout helped cauase the tour de swiss crash, dropping cav to far out in a head wind.

    The last two days Renshaw has done such a good job

  6. Sven 10 July 2010 at 7:10 am #

    @ Joe: Sorry but it wasn’t Renshaw’s fault that Cavendish couldn’t hold a straight line in the finale of that stage – that’s all on Cavendish.
    Having said that he seems to have changed his attitude for the better over recent days – we’ll just have to see if that positive change remains or if the dislikeable “Cocky Chav Cav” returns now he’s winning again.

  7. rainbow 11 July 2010 at 3:53 am #

    At 25 or whatever , if he hasn’t grown up by now it’s not going to happen any time soon to the CavanDouche, in fact he’ll be following the lead ego of Mario Cipollini and start talking about the boy racer in the third person any time soon . Petulant Gen-Y self important and focused, what did I try to say the other day about tears of a narcissists self flagellation.
    As for Revisionist enlightening he gave concerning Agincourt, if he was aware of the story he would have be raised the fingers on his left hand, every Indian knows that!, (Opps didn’t your DS tell you that part of the story Dusch). All in all, I can’t wait for the next sprint day, the guy’s isgot arse.
    He’s Gen-Y, Guys get with the programme, it’s about me..

  8. CMAC 11 July 2010 at 9:18 am #

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the rush to somehow declare Cav vindicated because of his mawkish podium display. Why does a show of emotion somehow salve all the other displays of arrogance? And, let’s not forget, it’s not the first time he’s cried either. He’s a money sprinter and is paid accordingly, but he’s a cocky prick too. Somehow all the preening of feathers from his supporters, post-stage win, seems a little indulgent. He won. Awesome. If someone said he was dead; it was premature. If someone said he was the greatest ever…not yet.

  9. cosmo 11 July 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    @Big Mikey, the idea was more to show that Cav’s success has been striking and has come at a very young age. In addition to being a non-sprinter, Big Mig gave away a lot of stage wins.

  10. Arjan Hulsebos 12 July 2010 at 5:20 am #

    Let’s hope that Cavendish had enough humble pie to keep his ego in check.

  11. Le Blaireau 12 July 2010 at 10:01 am #

    By the way Cosmo, this was an excellent post. Everything we were thinking about the (obscene) US cycling media scene and were afraid to say out loud is in it. Chapeau bas.

  12. j 12 July 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    All pro athletes are entertainers, wether they like it or not, and as much of an entertainer Cav may be on the bike, he’s the exact opposite off the bike. The dude has enormous talent and an even bigger mouth, which he should think of shutting up if he wants to build a fan base anywhere outside of the Isle of Man.

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