Mark Cavendish on Moto GP and the Abu Dhabi Tour
Welcome back. When did you get here?
I was in Abu Dhabi for the F1. I’ve been in the Middle East for a couple of weeks now. I am loving it here. I come about five times a year.
So you’re a fan of the F1. Do you like cars or is it just bikes?
Yes. I have always loved it. Anything to do with motors, or machines…vehicles really. Just love them.
BONUS: DRESSING MARK CAVENDISH
Ever wish you’d been an F1 driver?
Na. I don’t think I’m good enough. Everybody thinks that it’s like driving a car down the promenade, it’s totally not the same. To be honest, I prefer motorbikes more; I would like to race them instead.
Do you have any motorbikes?
Yeah. A couple of good ones actually.
So, that’s next? After the cycling?
In all seriousness, I think so.
How many bicycles do you actually own?
I don’t know. In terms of personal, I have three old bikes and one special and one that I’ve won the world championship with. One’s special for tour, stages and stuff like that…I don’t know, maybe twenty altogether.
Do you still love it? Cycling, I mean...
Yes, I do. There are times that it is my job, but I’m still very fortunate to be able to do it, and I never forget that. I’m not lucky — I work hard, but I’m fortunate.
When you’re at the gym, do you ever go on the bike?
No, never like that indoor stuff; that’s enough to put anyone off. When someone starts off with bikes like that, I understand why they don’t want to be a cyclist.
You have been working with the Abu Dhabi Tour as an ambassador. How did that come about?
Abu Dhabi sports council are putting on great events, and they’re pushing hard to make Abu Dhabi the centre of sport in the world. They started the Abu Dhabi Tour with the aim of getting the highest level of cycling, and they have done that over the past three years.
It suits me down to the ground. I often came to the Emirates on holiday anyway, and when they approached me, I was excited about the opportunity.
How do you find cycling here?
Hot. (Laughs). I think the one difference to Europe is that over there you can leave your house and you go out and walk. Here you drive to places don’t you? There’s no infrastructure for walking or cycling; but it is changing. It’s pretty impressive, every time I come back I see something new, I see a new bike path, I see some form of infrastructure for cyclists and that makes me happy.
Do you prefer intense heat or freezing cold when cycling?
I’d rather be too hot than too cold. Probably would have been different when I was younger; but, as I’m getting older I feel the cold a lot more. When I hit 30, I had to start wearing gloves and all!
The big 3-0, every man dreads it until they reach it. Did you freak out?
I did for a while, I thought I was going to have a break down — thought I was going to buy a sports car... actually, I did [laughs]! A month before my 30th, I remember it was my daughter’s birthday, my wife was pregnant with our second.
I sat there and she was running around, making sure everyone was alright and Delilah was in this little dress and I remember thinking “what more could I want when I turn 30?” I couldn’t wish to achieve any more and I couldn’t wish to have a better family.
You are clearly a family man. What do your kids think about what you’re doing? Are they aware of fame?
Not really. To them I’m just dad. My daughter understands cycling, and that’s what I do, she can pick me out on a TV, but she sees it as just my job. She isn’t aware of fame as such.
Is there a career highlight for you? Or too many to mention?
The first time I won the world championships. I was 18 or 19, and there was hype, I knew I was pretty good, but I just didn’t expect it, and I won, so that was pretty great. I will never forget that feeling.
That first time, eh?
How did you celebrate?
I was in LA and I went out with the whole team. Went to the bar, cruised in without an ID, trouble is it’s 21 over there, so I had to stand outside the bar the whole night! I wouldn’t really call that celebrating.
What advice would you now give your 21-year-old self?
Stop fighting the world. The world’s not against you. It just feels like it sometimes. Get rid of that chip on your shoulder. When I look back now, I was just an angry man, fighting against everyone.
I just came out swinging every day.
Is that attitude why you’ve got to where you are today?
Yeah, maybe. People still expect that from me now actually. I did an interview recently, and the interviewer was like, you’re a bit scary and I have been dreading this interview! That is awful. I hope I am not that bad to interview.
Don’t worry; you aren’t.
Do you drive? Ever get road rage with those pesky cyclists?
I don’t beef in the car, I’m calm. Riders aren’t bad as a generalisation. Pedestrians aren’t bad as a generalisation. You get d***heads everywhere. It’s the person, not cyclists as a group.
At the end of the day, on a bike you are one lone person, people in cars should be aware even if someone’s angry, you are protected in your shell and their safety is in your hands, so just be careful about getting angry and your reactions to them.
Wise words. On a lighter note, what does Mark Cavendish do on his perfect day off?
My favourite thing to do is take my kids to school, and just mill around the house in my undies. Just be in my home, in my own bed. I spend 200 days a year away, so whenever I can I just want to be in my own bed and chill.
Two hundred days? That’s intense. It must be hard being away from home and the kids. How do you make that work?
I’m just working to give them a good life. It’s my job, at the end of the day. At least when I’m at home I get some quality time, I get to really enjoy the time we spend together. But of course I miss them. I’m doing this for them, if they’re proud of me, then it makes it all worthwhile.
They don’t even know you’re a successful cyclist you said, so proud might be a bit much.
[Laughs] my daughter kind of knows I said, if I win, and I’m about to get on a plane, I have to buy flowers from the airport. If she sees me win and get flowers on the podium and I don’t bring them home, she’ll be absolutely raging!
So what’s next, Cav?
I’ve got a fair few years in my professional career left yet. Last year, when I got glandular fever, the fever took me out for months. Six weeks before the Tour de France I thought I’d just give it a go.
I got prepared, training four hours in the morning; then two or three hours at home on the couch; then another four hours training. Those were long and lonely days, but I made the Tour.
Sadly I was taken out, but I would have won that stage easy. I just thought to myself, if I can win a stage with just six weeks of training then I know I’m still the best in the world. I will just keep going for as long as I’m the best.
Could you still be here at 45 then?
We’ll see, but as soon as I’m done, I’m moving to the Middle East! I love it here.
Abu Dhabi, for sure. It’s close enough to come to Dubai when need too. In Italy, I live on a small island. I love that quiet, rural vibe. It’s all a little bit more relaxed. Man... I really am getting old.