Boy Racer: My Journey to Tour de France Record-Breaker

Boy Racer: My Journey to Tour de France Record-Breaker

by Mark Cavendish


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No one's faster than Mark Cavendish. Written off as "fat" and "useless" in his youth, Cavendish has since sprinted to the front of the Tour de France peloton to become cycling's brightest star-and its most outspoken.

Boy Racer is a page-turning journey of pure exhilaration-candid, opinionated, and scrupulously honest-chronicling Cavendish's rapid rise from local hero to National Champion to Tour de France stage winner. Along the way, Cavendish takes us behind the scenes of the Tour de France to unmask the intrigue, the mayhem, the hysteria, and the adrenaline-fueled chaos of professional cycling.

Vivid, unflinching, brilliantly conveyed, Boy Racer will sweep you up in the swirl of the racer's world and deliver you to the finish line with an insider's story from the freshest voice and most agile mind in bike racing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934030646
Publisher: VeloPress
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Born and raised on the Isle of Man, Mark Cavendish became a world track champion as a teenager in 2005, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist a year later, and in 2008 regained his world title on the track with British teammate Bradley Wiggins. After switching his focus to the more glamorous world of road cycling, Cavendish set a new record of four stage wins in the 2008 Tour de France, and won the prestigious Milan-San Remo one-day classic in 2009. Widely regarded as the most exciting and charismatic young rider to grace the sport in years, Cavendish rides for the American cycling team HTC-Columbia and will be the most closely watched sprinter in the pro peloton in 2010.

Read an Excerpt

From Boy Racer, Chapter 5:

The most important ten seconds of my life. The next ten . . .

When most people think of a Tour de France sprint, the words and images that flash into their heads probably have something to do with speed, noise, color, danger, or adrenalin. But I don’t think of any of that, at least not when I’m winning. I think of the silence.

You know those moments in sports films when the striker’s through on goal, or the wide receiver’s galloping into the end zone, watching the ball over his shoulder, or the baseball leaves the pitcher’s hand — and the music and crowd noise suddenly stop and the film starts running in slow motion? Well, you may think those scenes are a cliché, but that’s actually what it’s like. In those moments, the speed, the noise, the color, the danger, the adrenaline — none of that matters. It’s just you, the bike, the finish line, and . . . the silence.

How can you have silence when you also have tens of thousands of fans screaming on either side of the road? It’s a good question, and not one I can answer; at every other time in the Tour de France, the crowd and its noise are the tailwind that whips you along faster than at any race in the season. In those final few hundred meters, though, you notice the noise no more than you notice the air; maybe that’s why, if silence is what it sounds and looks like, you feel as if you’re riding through a vacuum.

I’d seen Thor Hushovd’s lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, surge level with my right shoulder. I’d seen Hushovd on Renshaw’s wheel. I’d swung left, across and past my teammate, Gerald Ciolek. I’d trampled all over the pedals.

For the first time, 300 meters away, at the end of that vacuum, I had an unobstructed view of the finish line. Almost. Incredibly, just as he and his two breakaway companions were about to be swept up under the kilometer-to-go banner, the Frenchman Nicolas Vogondy had somehow located a few last droplets of energy and burst clear again. He hugged the barriers on the right-hand side, sheltered from the crowd, hidden in the shadows, clutching at the last available straws.

For a cyclist, “form” is probably a more mythologized state of physical euphoria than for any other sportsman, but, for me, there are two, maybe three seconds in every sprint finish when “form” doesn’t matter. My “kick” is the fastest in cycling whether I’m on a good day or not; all that form changes is how long I can stay at top speed.

On this day, two beats of the pedals were enough to make me certain I couldn’t lose.

My kick had taken me level with Hushovd. Usually, as long as you’re sprinting parallel to another sprinter, you keep accelerating in case they surge again. Sense, rather than see, them slipping back and you know they’re gone for good.

Now, Hushovd was slipping.

My right side was clear . . . except for Vogondy, who could hear me coming like a death rattle. On my left there was nothing. A vacuum.

I could hear one voice. My own. There were no more of those decisions to make, no more wheels to follow, no more risks to run — just me, a hundred meters of open road, the finish line, and a hundred photographers waiting to capture the moment.


Come on, Cav. It’s coming, come on, it’s coming, it’s coming . . . fifty, forty, thirty, twenty . . . don’t let them back in . . . just a few more revs . . . it’s coming . . . one more effort . . . fifteen . . . yes, it is . . . ten . . . Oh my God!

Oh my God. Oh . . . my . . . God.

Five meters short of the line, I released my hands from the bars and brought them to rest on my helmet. Oh my God, I’d done it.

My front wheel sliced through the finish line. And the silence ended. First came the noise, then the emotion. Six million volts of emotion — like an electric shock. For the last half of the race, throughout those last fifty kilometers, I hadn’t entertained a single emotion, didn’t give a second’s consideration for anything beyond what my body was doing and what it was going to do next. I was in the zone. Crossing the line was like turning on the power switch.

One of the first faces I saw when I crossed the line was Bob Stapleton’s; his was always one of the first faces I saw when I crossed the line. Our team owner could have been sipping champagne in the hospitality area, which you’d think was the most natural place for a billionaire businessman to be. But no, Bob was always there, in the middle of the stampede of journalists, photographers, and soigneurs — inconspicuous, reserved, but as quietly delighted and excited as anyone. In age, demeanor, occupation, Bob and I couldn’t be more different, but we get on because we have one vital thing in common: passion.

I felt the Spaniard Oscar Freire give me a congratulatory pat, then the great German sprinter Erik Zabel. But now my emotions were running wild. I just wanted to see my teammates. Where were my teammates? I had to see my teammates.

Almost to a man, they’d crossed the line with arms aloft in jubilation. Now, one by one, they fought their way through the scrum to find me, hug me, and shout words that may have seemed incoherent at the time but which, in fifty years’ time, I’ll still remember. I later found out that Gerald Ciolek had hurt himself so much in the effort to launch me in the final kilometer that he’d had to go for a ride to warm down.

In a matter of seconds, chaos had broken out — a chaos that I’d helped to create by turning around and heading into the oncoming current of 180 riders, sucking the crown of pressmen with me. Several of those 180, like David Millar, were happy for me; most were too preoccupied with their own fight for survival and the fight to muscle through to their team bus. One was furious — furious to have to battle through this crush, and furious at the result; thus Filippo “Playboy” Pozzato celebrated my first Tour de France stage win by reaching down for his water bottle and hurling it at a journalist.

Table of Contents

Prologue vii

Introduction 1

Stage 1 Brest-Plumelec 15

Stage 2 Auray-Saint Brieuc 29

Stage 3 Saint-Malo-Nantes 43

Stage 4 Cholet-Cholet 67

Stage 5 Cholet-Châteauroux 87

Stage 6 Aigurande-Super Besse 95

Stage 7 Brioude-Aurillac 103

Stage 8 Figeac-Toulouse 121

Stage 9 Toulouse-Bagnères de Bigorre 139

Stage 10 Pau-Hautacam 145

Stage 11 Lannemezan-Foix 163

Stage 12 Lavelanet-Narbonne 183

Stage 13 Narbonne-Nîmes 199

Stage 14 Nîmes-Digne Les Bains 213

Milan-San Remo: 2009 229

Epilogue 259

Acknowledgments 287

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Boy Racer: My Journey to Tour de France Record-Breaker 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
j.james on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being a cyclist with chicken legs and slow twitch muscles (actually, no twitch muscles would be a better description), I¿ve never really been a big follower of the stage winning sprinters in road racing (I prefer cheering on the Schleck brothers). That being said, watching the 2008 and 2009 Tour De France seasons, you couldn¿t help but take notice of Mark Cavendish. He was explosive at the finish line and sometimes abrasive and arrogant in the interviews that followed. Thankfully, Cavendish¿s book isn¿t one dimensional or entirely narcissistic, and an overall pretty enjoyable read. Don¿t get me wrong, this is a book about Cavendish written by Cavendish, but he does a great job letting the reader into the world of the Tour De France. Cavendish is a man passionate about his sport, and he¿s worked incredibly hard (and continues to) at it. He says it himself that he wasn¿t born with the natural physique of a great cyclist (he¿s considered ¿heavy¿ for a grand tour cyclist), yet his success is undeniable. Cavendish¿s success seems refreshingly human; the result of hard work and enthusiasm. He isn¿t afraid to speak to some of his own shortcomings, and his candor is refreshing. He gives credit to his teammates (every sprinter needs a team to get him through the race), but doesn¿t really go into much detail about his relationships with them. Overall, Cavendish¿s book is well written, although scattered and unorganized at times (maybe his editor is more to blame). It¿s a fun read, especially if you are interested in the Tour De France.
JPurchase More than 1 year ago
Boy Racer is one of the most inspiring books I¿ve ever read. The life behind the world¿s greatest sprinter, Mark Cavendish is extraordinary and thoughtful, as he overcame challenges and prejudice to prove to his superiors, and the world that he is the greatest sprinter who ever lived. Throughout the stories of specific races and stages, as well as his childhood and family, you learn the extreme work effort and motivation it took for him to become who he is today. In the beginning, you learn of his basic childhood, and how he got into cycling. When he learned his talent on the bike, Cavendish explains how he took himself to the next level by riding 16 or more hours a week. He made his way through the British Cycling Academy and how he signed with (at the time) the world¿s best team, T-Mobile. Cavendish didn¿t stop there, and he rode himself into the ground to be better, and to prove himself that he should be the team¿s sprinter. The story continues with his first Tour De France stage wins, as well as the work and team tactics it took for him to stand the podium. All of which are complicated and inspiring as he takes you into the world of grand tour cycling and what really goes on in the peloton. The biggest two themes in this book are work ethic and determination. Throughout the text, Cavendish explains how he was [in cycling terms] ¿fat¿ and ¿useless¿ and no one really believed in him outside of his family. His coaches said he wasn¿t training right, he wasn¿t meeting the wattage numbers in the test, and his attitude wasn¿t right. Cavendish works through the doubt and continued to win stages, astounding those who thought it was impossible. He talks about the decisive factor in his winning, and how he was still able to win: a cyclist¿s ability to endure through intense pain. I thoroughly enjoyed the insight Cavendish gave into the pro cycling world. I never used to understand the amount of team effort that came to getting one man on the podium. It was awe inspiring how involved you felt reading the book, and when I was done with it, I felt like I knew Mark Cavendish personally, like I¿d known him my whole life. As a young aspiring cyclist myself, I wish Cavendish would have talked more about his begging years and some more decisive things that made him stand out from the crowd at a young age. I search for answers other than intense training. He focused more on his career once he made it to the academy level, and how he took himself to the next level within pro cycling. Everyone would enjoy this book for a source of inspiration, or just a great example of what dedicating yourself and working hard can bring into your life. You can gather lots of personal themes from the book in whatever way you took it. If you know nothing of cycling and have never seen any, this book may be a bit of a confusing read, but nothing a little pre reading background research couldn¿t fix.