Mark Cavendish’s former teammate Axel Merckx has lauded the Manxman’s mental strength and recalled how the young Cavendish’s performances on the road greatly outstripped his pre-season test results. The duo rode together at T-Mobile in 2007, Merckx’s final season as a professional. The Belgian is now directeur sportif of the Trek-Livestrong team.
“That January, during our first training camp in Mallorca, we had to undergo some specific tests on endurance and strength,” Merckx told DH.be. “Cavendish was very disappointed to hear it said by the trainer that his test results weren’t worthy of a ProTour rider. And it’s true that his tests were lower than everybody else!”
Merckx sought to encourage Cavendish by citing the example of his former Mapei teammate Johan Museeuw, who had delivered similarly unimpressive test scores in his time but remained a redoubtable performer on the road.
“To cheer him up, I told him that a certain Johan Museeuw had once faced the same nonsense at the famous Mapei Centre, one week before his most important period but that hadn’t stopped him from winning Dwars door België masterfully,” Merckx said.
“Tests are all well and good but they don’t take into account one thing – the head! A little later, Mark easily won the GP Van Steenbergen, beating Robbie McEwen. The young man had apparently received my message loud and clear."