Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December.
NUMBER 2: MARK CAVENDISH
Giro d’Italia points jersey winner
By his usual standards, Mark Cavendish was not at his unbeatable best at the Tour de France. Marcel Kittel, with four stage wins including a final triumph on the Champs-Elysées, took the limelight. Cavendish ended up with two victories, at Marseille and again at Saint Amand Montrond, on one of the most extraordinary days in the Tour’s recent history.
In sprinting, the scores are binary. Success is measured in wins and losses and so, against previous tallies of four, five and six Tour stage wins, two looked a little on the skinny side.
But that fact, important though it is, masks one of Cavendish’s most successful and consistent seasons.
He joined a very small group of riders to have won the points competition at all three Grand Tours when he clinched the red jersey at the Giro d’Italia in May. He won five stages there too, a much more Cavendish-esque tally. Then he won the National Championship road race in Glasgow in June, to add the British champion’s red, white and blue to the world champion’s rainbow bands he won two years ago.
And his brace of Tour de France stage wins took his overall total to 25, just three short of Bernard Hinault in the all-time list, and nine adrift of leader Eddy Merckx.
More to the point, Cavendish raced more often than almost every other WorldTour rider, racking up 96 days of competition, winning 19 races.
He started with a victory in Argentina in January and won a race in every month until September, bar April, when he took his pre-Giro break. By any measure, it was an outlandish season of success.
If one victory stands out, it must be that Tour de France stage in the crosswinds to Saint Amand Montrond, when Cavendish relied on his racer’s instincts rather than his pure speed to set up an opportunity to win.
As Saxo Bank sought to put distance between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, Cavendish and his Omega Pharma Quick-Step team were playing a different game. They capitalised on the chance, contributed to the effort and then completed the job in emphatic style at the finish.
Cavendish’s performances often have the capacity to take the breath away, but that was a day that will live long in the memory.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links