There’s a noticeable change in tone as Mark Cavendish starts talking about the women in his life. A hero to many for what he’s achieved on a bicycle, it seems that the tables are flipped when he turns closer to home.
Step forward the rare few individuals (and probably only) that can cause Cavendish to bite his tongue: his wife Peta, daughter Delilah and mum, Adele.
“I’m very lucky that I’m surrounded by strong women and I’m very lucky that I live in an age that’s promoting strong women; and so to be able to do something specific like this, is pretty special.”
He was speaking ahead of the start of the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire, a race he’s never competed in, and is somewhat of a homecoming for the 32-year-old. In a fortuitous alignment of the stars it also coincides with the launch of team’s latest campaign for our charity partner Qhubeka.
“This quarter the team, through Qhubeka, aims to raise funds to put 1000 Girls on Bikes – which is incredible. The bike is the tool for my job but what can it do to change a life, especially in rural parts of Africa? It can mean that kids go to school, farmers can take their produce to market; it can mean healthcare workers can work within a 50km radius rather than one of 5km – incredible.
“Qhubeka is a massive part of my heart, it’s the reason that I joined the team and it still blows me away that we can have such an impact. To target girls specifically this quarter is a big, big thing.”
The scene couldn’t be set any better for him this weekend with even the weather set to play its part; it’s a challenge that Cavendish is relishing.
“My mother’s from Yorkshire so it’s a big part of my heritage. When the Tour de France started there in 2014 it was like a dream, I never thought it would happen. Obviously it didn’t (laughs) go how I wanted,” he said.
“It’s going to be incredible to be back. I’ve missed the Tour de Yorkshire since it started but finally I’m so excited to go and race. It’s the people in Yorkshire – the friendliest people that you’ll ever meet – and they absolutely love bike riding.
“My friends that have raced Yorkshire tell me that it’s no different to how the Tour de France was in terms of the amount of people that line the street. I know Sir Gary Verity, the organiser, and Welcome to Yorkshire very well and I know that they put on a tremendous job, so I’m looking forward to doing it.”
It’s a busy month on the calendar with Tour de Yorkshire, the Tour of California and of course the 101st Giro d’Italia all providing exciting challenges for the team. It’s also one in which the team will look for a change of fortunes after a first quarter that saw a number of crashes and incidents that had unprecedented major impact on the team.
“Team Dimension Data’s not had the best run of luck this year for sure. I’m just glad that everyone’s back and will be able to ride their bike again, really. It was sad to see my best friend Bernie (Eisel) have to go in for brain surgery last week, that was pretty scary. He’s one resilient guy and I know that he will be back, I’ll definitely miss him,” said Cavendish.
“As well as all the other guys who have been through it, but what I can say about bike riders is that they’re fighters, and they really come back strong. I send my love and support to all of my teammates who are coming back.”
For Cavendish though there’s no “comeback” talk. The difficulties of the last year or so are simply, for him, part of the ride in racing bikes and his desire for success has never been greater.
“I’m in my 13th year as a professional now and I feel as hungry as ever. I know I can win and I want to win. That won’t change. The moment it does change, it will be the time to stop.”