By William Rider
Mark Cavendish’s Twitter profile has the following warning: “Fast sprinter, faster talker. Disclaimer: May cause offence.” He didn’t manage to show us his fast sprint in Saturday’s Olympic Road Race but we got a fine display of fast talking and offence.
At the end of the race Cavendish who finished 28 lashed out with a comment saying: “The crowd was tremendous the whole way around, but the Aussies just raced negatively.”
Former Great Britain cyclist Daniel Lloyd agreed and told the BBC that Cavendish was “right”.
They both should know better.
If the Australian team rode “negatively” then how come their man Stuart O’Grady finished in sixth place?
The reason was Australia, like many of the other teams, had more than one plan to get a medal, unlike the British team who only had one strategy. It’s got nothing to do with other teams riding negatively; but it has everything to do with teams and riders identifying each others strengths and weaknesses and also a lot of good luck (something which Fabian Cancellara knows about).
It’s not the first time Cavendish has been caught out this year. In March’s 298km Milan-San Remo race Mark Cavendish was dropped as Vicenzo Nibali’s team accelerated up the climb of La Manie 97 kilometres from the finishing line. The Italian rider played on his strength and Cavendish’s weakness, but lost out later to Australia’s Simon Gerrans in the sprint.
Nibali also featured in Saturday’s road race and attacked several times on the part of the course where Cavendish would be weakest. By the end of the final ascent up Box Hill there was a group of around 30 riders who had broken away from the main group of riders. Stuart O’Grady was among them.
O’Grady (who won Paris-Roubaix in 2007) rode agressively throughout the Olympic road race. His Australian team-mates in the main peloton were hardly going to help Team GB catch him, were they? And nor were any of the teams who had riders in the breakaway group going to help either.
There’s no shame in getting beaten by some of the world’s greatest cyclists and by teams who had more than just one plan to get hold of a medal. There’s more than one way of winning a cycle race — it’s not just about being the fastest rider.
Yet instead of Cavendish conceding that the British team had been outsmarted, he chose to resort to negative comments about other countries. That’s not something we should applaud and it is something he should understand.