Mark Cavendish has spoken about the stress and pressure he faced as he developed into one of the best sprinters in history.
Speaking in an open an honest interview with Matt Stephens, Cavendish discusses how people have said he was “finished” ever since 2010, as he continued to rack up dozens of Tour de France stage victories.
Cavendish was speaking during the Sigma Sports video series The Café Ride, hosted by former pro and commentator Stephens.
The 34-year-old said: “In 2010 I was already told I was finished and every year since. Someone who doesn’t have a clue, it doesn’t matter what they think.”
Cavendish is making a big change for the 2020 season, joining the revamped Bahrain-McLaren team where he will work with his old mentor Rod Ellingworth.
The Manxman has been through a turbulent few years, blighted by illness and struggling sprint at his best, which culminated in him not being take to the 2019 Tour de France by his Dimension Data team.
But Cavendish, the winner of 30 Tour de France stages (only four behind the all-time record held by Eddy Merckx), will be bolstered by the belief of his former coach Ellingworth, who says he can return to his best.
Reflecting on the pressure he’s faced in his career, Cavendish said: “The hardest thing wasn’t the losing, it was getting blamed for something you had no control over. Taking the pressure and consequence of that really took a toll on my mental health. I’ll talk about that in the future.
“I was always the strongest mind I ever knew, and I’ve got severe mental health problems now.”
Speaking during the Bahrain-McLaren team launch earlier this month, Ellingworth said: “I do believe Mark is one of the very best at that positioning himself when he’s when he’s on good condition and good form and really motivated I think he’s probably one of the best in the world technically.
“I presume he still has the ambition of trying to be Eddy Merckx’s record. I say I don’t know – I know it’s there. But it’s not something that we’re talking about regularly. I think what we are talking about is just winning and I think that’s the marker. How do we get back to winning a bike race?
“I think someone like him is about confidence. It’s about building on that confidence and about building the team’s confidence. So I think the focus has got to be on just winning a bike race full stop.”