By Shane Stokes
Mark Cavendish came frustratingly close to achieving his goal of 11 wins in his debut pro season when he finished as runner-up to Belgian rider Gert Steegmans (Quick.Step - Innergetic) on Friday's second stage of the Circuit Franco-Belge in Templeuve, France.
The 22 year-old Manxman crossed the line just behind Tour de France stage winner Steegmans and ahead of Allan Davis (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner), Tyler Farrar (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) plus the rest of the main bunch.
On Thursday's opening stage Cavendish had also tried to land a victory but crashed with two kilometres to go. He was fortunately uninjured, but the determined competitor would have been greatly annoyed about the missed chance.
The T-Mobile rider has had a stunning debut season, getting his run of victories underway with success in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen on April 18th and then taking two stage wins apiece in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. His run-up to the Tour de France saw him also nab a win on stage four of the Ster Elektrotoer.
Cavendish had a difficult Tour debut due to crashes and other bad luck but bounced back to take stage victories in the Post Danmark Rundt and the Eneco Tour. He then brought his tally up to double figures with success in the prologue and on stage one of his home race, the Tour of Britain.
While he was sprinting well on Friday, he had sounded less than confident exactly one week earlier when asked about his chances of taking that eleventh season victory. "I am not optimistic about it," he said at an informal meet-and-greet held by the T-Mobile team at the world road race championships in Stuttgart. "I am feeling the effects of a long season now. I could perhaps pick one up in Franco-Belge but I am not going to risk life and limb for it either."
Things have clearly turned around now and he is likely to try again if the opportunity presents itself.
Cavendish spoke a little about his hunger, giving an insight into his determined nature. "That is just the way that my mentality is; I expected to win races this year but I didn't set out expecting to win a certain number of them. It is just my mentality; when I win I want to win more, and then I kept winning more. It's just worked out that way. I wanted to get to seven wins and when I got those, then I said I wanted 11 now. When I said during the year that I was going for that, Petacchi had 11 wins at that point. Now he has won 16, but what I wanted [at the time] was to get the most wins of any pro this year. That is what I was trying to achieve."
It's been claimed on several occasions this year that Robbie McEwen's debut tally of 10 wins is the record for a neo-pro. Accurate or not, that figure gives Cavendish something to try to surpass. "I spoke to Robbie about it, actually. He takes it as a complete compliment. I said, 'look, I want to do better than you, but it's out of respect.'"
A complete feature on T-Mobile's young star will appear soon on Cyclingnews.