Just as day follows night, the one hundredth win of Mark Cavendish’s career was followed by his one hundredth winner’s press conference. And just as his win on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia in Treviso was typical of the genre, so too was his meeting with the media afterwards.
Although Giro press officer Matteo Cavazzuti warned that Cavendish’s conference would be a short one because of the lengthy transfer to Friday’s start in Busseto, the Manxman still found time to cram in just about all of his traditional themes in what almost amounted to a greatest hits compilation of press conferences past.
The lavish praise for his teammates, a forensic description of the finishing straight, a moment of introspection and thinly-veiled barb at the gentlemen of the press (of this very parish, in fact) all featured in Cavendish’s brief cameo in Treviso’s Istituto Comprensivo Stefanini after the stage.
“Normally it wouldn’t mean anything but the 100th win is quite special, it is quite a milestone,” Cavendish said of hitting his century, before segueing into a lengthy paean to his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates.
“The guys took control on a quite horrid stage from beginning to end and they rode out of their skins. They went longer than what I thought was possible. Young Julian Vermote was pulling 5k at the end and Matteo Trentin normally goes at 800 metres but he had to go from 2k but the guys all day, they were incredible. Every single one of them did something special today and that makes the win even more special.”
Next up was the de rigueur question about the final kilometre of the race, and every reporter in the room duly leaned forward as they strained to listen to Cavendish dictate the opening paragraphs of their race reports.
“I knew the wind was coming from the left but we had to start the sprint on the left because we caught the break so I had to drift right and hopefully get the guys coming in the wind on the left,” Cavendish said. “I was happy because I didn’t sense anybody at all but I didn’t want to celebrate because of the conditions so I just lifted one hand.”
There was also an opportunity for Cavendish to charm his hosts with his Manx-accented Italian, honed in Tuscany, which he broke out when asked for his thoughts on fellow countryman and former teammate Bradley Wiggins’ travails on the stage. Wiggins lost over three minutes and all hopes of Giro success when he was distanced in the final 40 kilometres.
“For me the Giro is for my team and other teams are other teams. He’s a friend of mine and I want the best for him but I’m with my team doing my race and he’s with his,” Cavendish said carefully of Wiggins.
And finally, we came to the airing of grievances. Asked to articulate the difference in mindset between his first and one hundredth wins, Cavendish offered a moment of genuine insight into the expectations that have built up around him since his maiden win as a raw 21-year-old in at Scheldeprijs in 2007.
“When I first started, winning was a bonus, you know? Now anything but a win is a loss. That’s how things have changed. I no longer win races, I lose races and that really changes not just my perception of things but the team’s perception of things," Cavendish said, before indulging in his favourite press conference parlour game –taking aim at perceived slights.
“You see the criticism the team’s come under this year. I think some people made some shit comments about the Saturday in Napoli when Gert [Steegmans] had a mechanical and they said that it didn’t work perfectly when in fact it was quite a perfect stage routine you know. Cyclingnews…”
But before one could ask if a man with one hundred wins could really be so thin-skinned, Cavendish summed up his situation neatly: “That’s part and parcel of it, it shows you’re doing something right and I’d rather be in that position than a position where you’re less successful.”
And with that, Cavendish wrapped up his press conference. After one hundred performances, he knows how to put on a show.