Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has acknowledged that his status as cycling’s pre-eminent sprinter has been placed under threat by the rise of riders such as Marcel Kittel, who won four stages to the Manxman’s two at this year’s Tour de France.
At 28 years of age, Cavendish is approaching what ought to be his athletic prime but he suggested that he is now lacking the natural explosiveness of his youth. His winter preparation will feature more speed training than ever before as he prepares to prove he is still the best sprinter in the world.
“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.”
In the revealing interview, Cavendish downplayed the idea – once floated by directeur sportif Brian Holm – that anger served as a motivational force. He did, however, admit that he will approach the 2014 season motivated by the need to prove a point and fend off the threat posed by Kittel et al to his sprint crown.
“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,” Cavendish said. “I’ve been relatively unchallenged until now, and now people are challenging my position as the most dominant sprinter in the world.”
As well as adding more sprint work to his training schedule, Cavendish told The Telegraph that his regimen includes logic puzzles such as Sudoku, which he believes help his decision-making and positioning in the frantic final kilometres of sprint stages.
“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 20 or 30 beats slower than the other guys,” Cavendish said. “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.”
Asked if he was a genius, Cavendish was succinct. “Last time I did an IQ test I was, yeah.”
Cavendish's second autobiography called "At speed, my life in the fast lane', covering the last four years of his high-speed career, is published on November 7.