Mark Cavendish has made headlines for all the right reasons in 2007. He's taken an astonishing eleven wins in his debut professional season and, as the first signatory of the UCI's Riders' Commitment for a New Cycling, he has shown that he is part of a new generation so vital to the sport. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke recently to the prodigious sprinter about his year, his Olympic ambitions and his goal of winning the Maillot Vert.
With his first pro season done and dusted, and a well-deserved break coming up, T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish has provided three clear signs that he could become the force in world sprinting in the years ahead.
The first of these is the blend of speed and self-confidence which saw him take an outstanding eleven wins in 2007. The second is the ambition which drove him to keep chasing victories right up to his last race of the road season; many other riders might well have eased back and soaked up the success, but the 22 year-old remained focused and hungry for more.
The third is the fact that he exceeded Robbie McEwen's own professional debut tally of eight European victories, beating the mark set by the man who subsequently became one of the world's best sprinters. It bodes well for his future, and suggests that his goal of taking the points jersey in the Tour de France could be within his scope.
Cavendish is very young and only this season gained experience in the world's top races, but he's been showing his speed for quite a while. As an amateur he gathered strong results in many decent events; in 2005 he took gold medals on the track in the Madison world championship title race and the European championship points race event, as well as sprinting to third on a stage of the Tour of Britain.
One year later he netted gold for the Isle of Man at the 2006 Commonwealth Games scratch race while still just 20 years old. His road results included under 23 victories in the Course de la Solidarité Olympique, Thüringen-Rundfahrt and Berliner Rundfahrt [stages 3b and 4], as well as second overall in the classification of the latter event. He fared well against the professionals too, netting top three placings in the Tour of Britain [second on stages four and five plus third on stage six] and the Tour de Langkawi [second on stage eight].
The Manxman had been racing with Team Sparkasse but its close ties with T-Mobile plus his strong season results saw him begin a trial as stagiaire with the German ProTour team. His aforementioned performances in the Tour of Britain secured him a professional contract with the squad, which was in the process of a clear-out and total reconstruction following the Jan Ullrich-Operación Puerto affair. Cavendish's clear anti-doping stance gelled perfectly with what the new general manager, Bob Stapleton, was aiming to achieve and he fitted in well. However, not even Stapleton could have foreseen just how successful 2007 would be.