British Riders of the Year 2014 number 9: Mark Cavendish

Despite a lack of Grand Tour success in 2014, Mark Cavendish still had a successful year and he's number 9 in our British Riders of the Year

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It says a lot that a season with 11 victories is seen as a disappointment for Mark Cavendish. And yet he won more professional road races this year than any other British rider.

Cavendish won 11 races in his first year as a professional (2007) and again in 2010. The difference in 2014 was that he failed to complete a Grand Tour for the first time since his debut season.

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Everything was built around the Tour de France and a showdown with Marcel Kittel. With stage one finishing in Harrogate — his mother’s hometown — and the potential to wear the yellow jersey for the first time, the tension and expectation in Yorkshire was immense.

As the riders entered the final kilometre, a colleague said, with eerie prescience: “Cavendish will either win this or crash spectacularly.”

Cavendish is not just an all-or-nothing athlete; he’s an all-or-nothing person. That sprint defined the phase his career is currently in. He’s been so much better than everyone else for so many years. Now he has a serious rival, yet he will give everything, risk everything, to prove he’s still the best.

The crash left him with a separated shoulder and left us with a sense that one of the great battles of the season had been postponed.

Mark Cavendish after a crash on stage one of the 2014 Tour de France

Mark Cavendish after a crash on stage one of the 2014 Tour de France

Up to then, Cavendish had been going quite nicely. He won stages at the Tour of the Algarve, a couple at Tirreno-Adriatico and put himself in contention at Milan-San Remo to finish fifth, a race that many considered beyond him. Four wins at the Tour of Turkey, two at the Tour of California and a victory at the Tour of Switzerland continued the upward curve.

How good was Cavendish going into the Tour? We can’t know but it would have been a surprise if he’d not managed to take at least a win or two from Kittel.