He may well be the most popular and well known sportsman from the Isle of Man. But Mark Cavendish is also an inspiration and a leader for his teammates. Cav, as he is known, arrived in Delhi on Friday evening and is firm favourite for gold in the road race on Sunday morning.
His pro cycling team, HTC-Columbia, had offered to pay for five-star accommodation for the rider in Delhi, but Cavendish politely refused. “I wouldn't stay anywhere except the Games Village. Representing the Isle of Man means a great deal to me and I wouldn't want to be treated as any different from the other team members,” Cavendish had said. It is a clear indication that at big Games, it is team spirit that comes above all else. “When I am with the guys, I am just Mark. There is no question of being a star.”
Cavendish said he was happy to have joined the team, “It is a very technical circuit, so it is going to be a hard race.
It is a big race, so there is pressure, but we are looking for gold and it's a great group of guys to do it with. We have grown up training together, and we will be pushed by the Kiwis and the South Africans, but hopefully we will be up there in the end, and then anything is possible.”
Being favourites also comes with pressure though. Cavendish admits to being a little bit burdened by the weight of expectations. “If I don't finish first, it is considered a failure. It's like Cavendish loses his crown. Even one defeat every 15 races is not acceptable.” Pressure though is part of the job, and Cav's team is confident of good result. Cycling is after all a team sport and as Cavendish says, “I may cross the finish line first, but it's the team that puts me there.”
Following his strong showings at the Tour de France, a number of Isle of Man riders are considered rising stars. The team for the road race is one of the strongest, despite being hit by the pullouts of Kennaugh brothers, Peter and Tim.
Andy Roche, competing in his 6th Games, told the BBC, “With Cav in the team we will have a good chance.”