News has come our way that a Mark Cavendish fan club is being set up. And why not – the 23-year-old sprinter from the Isle of Man has set the road racing world alight with his startling turn of speed in the sprints. A talent that has just bagged him four Tour stage wins.

But there’s something wrong. The fan club isn’t being set up here in Britain but in Roeselare, Belgium, and for his Belgian fans – of which he has many.

Meanwhile, here in Britain the internet forums are disturbingly full of disgruntled ‘fans’ claiming that Cavendish shouldn’t have pulled out of the Tour de France before the Alps. He’s disrespected the Tour, he’s let us down, he’s a disappointment, his wins don?t mean anything because he didn’t finish in Paris. All real comments.

There’s something wrong with the British – we find it easy to like plucky triers, but if they become bona fide winners and recognise their own ability they become ‘cocky’, ‘arrogant’ and are instantly expected to win everything they do. Anything less just isn’t good enough.

Cavendish has now delivered six grand tour wins this year, and 22 professional wins in less than two years as a top level rider. He now sits in fifth place in the list of pro wins by British riders ever. Within two more years, he’ll quite probably be at the top.

I couldn’t care less if he pulled out of the Tour – that’s up to him and his team. He won four stages, more than any team, rider or sponsor could reasonably expect in any one event.

And the reason he pulled out of the Tour? To save some energy in his legs in order to start preparing to represent Britain in the Olympic Games. Cavendish takes wearing his country’s colours very seriously in an event that only happens once every four years. Coming away with anything other than a gold medal would not be good enough – which, ironically, is exactly what the forum bores and armchair warriors also expect.

So why is Cavendish celebrated in Belgium and reviled in Britain? It’s time to stop carping and give a great British success the acknowledgment and support he truly deserves.



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 15: Schleck takes lead in the Alps
Stage 14: Oscar Freire wins in Digne-les-Bains
Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win
Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three
Stage 11: Arvesen wins
Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second
Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees
Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse
Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage
Stage six: Ricco storms to win
Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win
Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead
Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break
Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint
Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Schleck ready to defend Tour lead [stage 15]
Rest day news round-up [July 21]
Saunier Duval riders: “We are honest”
Cavendish talks to Cycling Weekly after quitting Tour
Schleck savours first ever Tour de France jersey [stage 15]
Comment: Why Cav is right to go home today
Cavendish pulls out of the Tour
Barloworld to end cycling sponsorship
Ricco speaks on Italian television
Cavendish joins the all-time greats
Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli
Tour bosses say fight against doping continues
Ricco denies doping at the Tour
Saunier Duval pull out of Tour
Tour’s top ten changes
Ricco positive for EPO at Tour
Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary
Cavendish battles through Pyrenees
Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]
Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour
Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]
Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]
Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders
David Millar: the dope controls are working
Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour
Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit
Doping back in Tour de France headlines
Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]
Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]
Millar to go for yellow [stage six]
Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]
Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win
Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]
Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]
Who is Romain Feillu?
Cavendish disappointed with stage two result
Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey
Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?
Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec
Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win
Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 15
Stage 14
Stage 13
Stage 12
Stage 11
Stage 11
Stage 10
Stage nine
Stage eight
Stage seven
Stage six
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part five
Life at the Tour part four
Life at the Tour part three
Life at the Tour part two
Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
News and features>>
All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>
Day by day summary>>
Route & stages>>
Teams and riders>>
About the Tour>>