Even after the tears of Gent-Wevelgem when Mark Cavendish had re-signed for Deceuninck - Quick-Step to prolong his professional cycling career, the idea of the Manxman actually winning another bike race still felt like a far-fetched proposition despite the magic touch of the Belgian team.
But how sure were you that the best of Cavendish had been and gone? Enough to bet you'd get a tattoo of him if he did cross the line first one more time?
Paul James wasn't interested in wagers, but was so inspired by the prospect of a Cavendish comeback that he said if the sprinter managed to win another bike race he would get a tattoo to honour the achievement.
"When he re-signed with Deceuninck - Quick-Step I was like 'if Cav wins another race this year I’ll get a tattoo of him' to a mate or two," James tells Cycling Weekly. "I also said it to a popular Twitter person within cycling so it was then all over social media."
But did James ever think he would actually have to follow through with his promise?
"I don’t know actually," he admits. "Going off the previous few years' results...not very likely, but I’m a huge fan of his and have always been positive towards him and most things in life so I hoped he’d win even if it meant getting the tattoo."
In March, at Grote prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré, Cavendish finished second. Further podiums followed at Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. Then, the Tour of Turkey.
"I was at work," James recalls. "I’m a personal trainer and I was working in the main gym and had the Tour of Turkey on my phone under the desk.
"When Cav won his first stage I was literally running around the gym screaming liked he'd just scored the winner in a World Cup final. When he won his first Tour stage I had Covid and was trying to do the same screaming but had no voice to do it with."
Still, words are just words, no matter how excited he was to see Cavendish back to winning ways. Did he ever think about not committing the sprinter to ink?
"For a day or two yeah," James admits of questioning whether he actually wanted to get the tattoo. "Because it’s a big commitment to getting someone tattooed on you, the price also put me off a bit. But then I’m a man of my word and with what Cav has been through and the way he inspired me I thought what the hell, so I went through with it."
James' tattoo artist, who also lives in Jersey, found a few pictures of Cavendish on the internet and they selected which one to use, James explaining what the green jersey represents and also teaching more about the sport to the uninitiated artist of all things cycling.
"It’s been really positive actually," James says of the response to the new look of his left leg. "I’ve had people saying the fantastic the artwork is and how incredible it looks."
Thankfully, it's even gone down well with his other half.
"My girlfriend loves it and she’s not massively into tattoos and she really likes it, she also likes my reason behind getting it, with Cav inspiring me and his story. So that’s at least a bonus.
"I’m absolutely over the moon with it, I think it looks incredible, it’ll look even better once it’s fully healed. I don’t know if Cav has seen it yet. If he has, I hope he likes it and doesn’t think I’m some fanatic weirdo."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
British national champion to join WorldTour With Canyon-Sram
Alice Towers has penned a contract through to 2025
By Tom Davidson • Published
Dame Sarah Storey sets sights on non-disabled time trial slot at 2023 Glasgow World Champs
British legend believes she only needs to gain around 10 watts to be in contention
By Vern Pitt • Published