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Mark Cavendish interview

Mark Cavendish Interview
James Spender
21 Apr 2015

The Manx Missile tells us about bickering in the peloton, power meters and why there are more crashes.

This interview was published in April 2015. For a more up to date interview with Mark Cavendish ahead of the World Championships please click here: Mark Cavenish bouyant ahead of World Champs

Cyclist: You’re probably a bit fed up with questions about ‘that crash’ [Stage 1, 2014 Tour de France], so we won’t dwell on it too much.

Mark Cavendish: Well, don’t!

Cyc: Except, we have to ask… has this been a tough season for you, and are there things you’ll do differently next season?

MC: Well, I won nine or 10 races, which I think for any pro cyclist would have been considered a stellar year. So I think it’s a misinterpretation to think because it’s me it’s been a bad year. I had a great team, I did my best. I specialise in Grand Tour stages, and this season I was focusing everything on the Tour de France, but I went out in the first stage.

I’ve been lucky until now that I kind of bounce when I crash, but I didn’t this time. And I think that’s kind of it – it’s not about doing anything better. I’ve always put my season round the Tour, so when I’m not there people think I wasn’t around the whole season, but I’ve had some pretty good results.

Cyc: Do you think there are more crashes these days and, if so, why?

MC: Yeah, you can spend all day going through the reasons why, but I think the main one is because every team is so focused – on either GC or sprints – and they all ride as a unit now. It’s that plus the fact that there’s more pressure for teams to be at the front because there are crashes. Then, because there are more teams at the front it becomes more crowded, so then there are more crashes. Then, because there are more crashes the teams want to stay at the front even more. It just snowballs.

Cyc: Has there been a shift in how sprinters sprint?

MC: It’s more team-orientated; in particular more teams now build their whole team around sprinting. You can be there or thereabouts on your own, but your chances are significantly reduced without a whole team to support you. Before you could bounce around, but now you can’t unless you’ve got a minimum number of team-mates with you in the final stretch.

Cyc: Has aero kit affected things?

MC: A fair bit, specifically the clothing. A big person gets a bigger advantage from a skinsuit than a small person does. For me, saving 20% equates to significantly fewer watts than if Kittel saves 20%.

Mark Cavendish portrait

Cyc: How do the likes of you and Kittel and the other big guns get on?

MC: To be fair most of the big-name riders all have a mutual respect for each other, and they all have good personal relationships as well. The top tier, whether it’s sprinters or climbers, understand the job, they understand the sport, they understand the pressures that come from being the leader, so there’s a mutual respect. You have to find ways tactically to win and then you have to keep on winning – that’s your job. It’s usually the second-tier riders that have a problem with the first-tier riders, or with each other. A lot of the second-tier riders almost have a chip on their shoulder, you know? They’re the guys that you get a bicker on with.

Cyc: Some people consider sprinting to be the least tactical part of cycling. What do you make of it?

MC: People see climbing as mano a mano – really tactical – but it’s not. They all use their power meters now, so it’s like a mass-start time-trial with a mountaintop finish. In my opinion most climbers already know what they can do before they do it. Also, I think it’s easier to look at a sprint and say it’s just 200m at the end of 200km, so what’s the point of watching 200km? But that’s a blinkered, ignorant view. So much happens before the sprint, and there’s a reason why guys win sprints at the end. It’s not just down to who’s fastest over 200m, you have to work to be able to get there. So for me sprinting is the most tactical aspect of cycling now. It’s the one where you have to think so far ahead instead of looking at your power meter and just sitting on wattage.

Cyc: You’re a rider who’s known for his foresight. How would you call the split between the mental and physical abilities in a sprinter?

MC: It depends who it is. All I know is I put a lot less power out than the other guys but I’m probably less in the red zone before I get to the sprint. Sprinting isn’t about being able to sprint, it’s about being able to sprint when you’re in the red, on the limit. I think I’m able to stay just below the limit later in the race, which gives me an ability to sprint longer at the end, as opposed to someone who can’t hide and uses up their energy before the sprint.

Cyc: Do you place a lot of stock in power data?

MC: If I’ve got a specific target to hit, like a certain weight, then it’s good to use. But as a rule of thumb I don’t really train to anything specific; I don’t know my power zones and that. In fact I never used to use anything at all – it was irrelevant. In the last couple of years I’ve begun to pay a bit more attention to it, but still, at the end of the day I have to go full gas up the hill whatever, so there’s no point in training in a zone.

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