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Cav brings up his half-century

If there’s one thing Mark Cavendish possesses in spades, it’s an immaculate sense of timing. I’ve written about this amazing bike rider twice in the past four days, firstly about his sadly all but non-existent chances of winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in December, and then heaping praise on his autobiography, ‘Boy Racer’.

The Tour of Missouri kicked off yesterday, and continues to be a happy hunting ground for Cavendish. Last year he signed off his 2008 season with three stage wins and first place in the overall points classification. Yesterday he was first across the line at the end of stage one around the streets of St Louis, seeing off the challenge of J J Haedo and Thor Hushovd, and bagging a $12,500 Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the process.

It was his 22nd victory of a remarkable 2009, marking the 50th win overall of a professional career which is less than three years old.

Like the old saying about death and taxes, there are two things you can guarantee with Cav. Firstly, if he is involved in a sprint finish, put your house on him to win. (His success rate in sprints he has contested this year is close to 90%). And secondly, you can always rely on him to give good quote.

“We try to take control of the finish, we try to take control of the race. It was like a carrot on a string at the finish line.”

As ever, he was quick to recognise the contribution of his team in setting up the win, making a point he repeatedly emphasises about how the hardest thing he has to deal with is not the high-stakes, high-intensity last ten seconds of a stage which is his bread and butter, but having to face his colleagues on those occasions when he doesn’t deliver victory.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all, it’s what I enjoy doing. For sure, when I lose then it’s hard. If the guys ride like they rode all day and I don’t win, that’s hard to deal with.”

Yesterday, his post-race comments included special recognition for George Hincapie – who Cavendish calls the “grand-daddy of the team” – the grizzled, 36 year-old veteran who is leaving Columbia-HTC for the BMC team at the end of the year. Despite being Lance Armstrong‘s right-hand man for all seven of his Tour de France wins, Hincapie describes 2009 as one of his “most memorable” years ever.

Talking about ‘Big George’, Cavendish said:

“To be perfectly honest, I get really emotional about it. He’s like a big brother to me. We’ve worked so well the last few years and he’s such a big, big part of the team.”

And that’s Mark Cavendish for you in a nutshell. Instead of focussing on the milestone of his half-century of wins, he lavished praise on the unselfish heroes who helped him get there.

Like I said, an amazing bike rider. In more ways than one.`

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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