Review: ‘Boy Racer’, Mark Cavendish

I have read a large number of sporting autobiographies in my time; some very good – Tony Adams‘ ‘Addicted’ and Lance Armstrong‘s ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ spring readily to mind – many distinctly mediocre. This might just be the best one I have ever read.

Love him or loathe him – and it is difficult to be anywhere in between – Mark Cavendish is to sprinting on two wheels what Usain Bolt is to sprinting on two legs. If road cycling had anywhere near the same profile in the UK as athletics does, more people would be idolising this young man in the same way as the incredible Jamaican athlete.

‘Boy Racer’ weaves the tale of Cavendish’s four stage wins at the 2008 Tour de France with his life story up to and including his win at the 2009 Milan-San Remo classic. Although the book covers only the first two-and-a-bit years of a pro career which still (hopefully) has many successful years to come – and therefore does not include his six stage wins at the 2009 Tour – there is so much packed into the 340-odd pages that it does not feel at all padded.

The book reads in much the same way the man himself conducts himself in interviews: he shoots from the hip with his heart on his sleeve, occasionally inserting foot in mouth. But anyone who has ever seen Cav speak would expect no less: in a PC, PR-conscious world, here is a sportsman who is as brutally honest as he is fast. At times it is painfully obvious who he does and does not respect in the cycling world, and yet he is surprisingly self-critical, self-effacing and not afraid to admit when he has been proven wrong about someone. The book is full of little insights into the mindset of a master practitioner and behind-the-scenes revelations of what it is like to be a professional road cyclist, which make this a cut above the average sporting autobiography. Add this to the fleshing out of a personality far more complex, meticulous and magnanimous (to his team) than the one-dimensional cocky narcissist sometimes portrayed in the media, and what you have here is a compelling tale that had me tearing through the pages much like the man himself does when he has the sniff of the finish line in his nostrils.

‘Boy Racer’ was unputdownable. I’ll be first in line to buy the next chapter of the story of this incredible young man.

5 stars (out of 5)

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