Mark Cavendish: I’ve never been the strongest or the fastest but I win

Cavendish praises team as he makes a winning return to the Giro d'Italia

Mark Cavendish at the 2022 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish continued his Grand Tour renaissance at the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, picking up where he left off nine years ago with a formidable sprint victory.

After returning to the Tour de France last year and defiantly racing to four stage wins, the 36-year-old looks like he could be on a similar trajectory at the Giro this year, winning the first sprint finish of the 2022 edition having won the final sprint in his last appearance in 2013. Like the Tour, it's a race he flourished in during the early part of his career, taking 15 stages in five appearances before this year. 

Sunday's victory was a result of impeccable teamwork by his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl squad, as well as another checkmate in what Cavendish describes as "chess on wheels." His craft and his cunning are what able him to be the fastest, says Cavendish, allowing him to beat the likes of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).

“I think there are a few guys who are just as strong and fast, the strongest and fastest doesn’t necessarily mean the best,” Cavendish said. “I’ve never been that but I win. Caleb has the fastest legs, Fabio is the strongest, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you win bike races.

"Sprinting is like chess on wheels, you work out how to be the strongest and fastest on the road.”

Mark Cavendish at the 2022 Giro d'Italia

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Still, as ever Cavendish lays much of the credit at the feet of his team. Another almost textbook lead out by Michael Mørkøv did leave the Manxman with 300m to hold his sprint, but the timing of Quick-Step's emergence at the front of the bunch with just over 1km to go was a perfect play of bunch sprint positioning. Cavendish said the skills of his team-mates left him "no excuses" not to win.

“If you have the guys on that list, it leaves me full of confidence," he said of his team. "I know it’s on me, I know I’ve got the best group of guys around me, there are no excuses. I haven’t had a full team like this year like Fabio, so it’s nice to get that at the Giro.”

The Giro now leaves its stay in Hungary, with opportunities for Cavendish to add to his Grand Tour stage tally in the coming week following Monday's rest day. He'll have to then navigate the first summit finish to Mount Etna, but Cavendish is already more than enthused to be back racing at the Giro.

"The Giro in Hungary has been incredible," Cavendish said. "The crowds were phenomenal. I’ve seen many people on bikes, many bike paths. People have loved the Grande Partenza. It’s been a privilege for me to be here and an exceptional privilege to win here.

“I am happy to be back here. I love racing, I love Italy, and I love the Giro,” he said. “This race it’s been nice to me. It’s super nice to win today.”

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Richard Windsor

Follow on Twitter: @richwindy

Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.

An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).