True greatness beckons for boy racer
"I will never, ever win BBC Sports Personality of the Year!"
As predictions go that doesn't immediately stand out as a stop-the-presses sound bite. There have been only 52 different winners in the award's 55-year history, so statistically speaking it's a pretty safe statement to make.
But the odds start to change if you happen to be a British sports star, and they begin to get very short if you are a British sports star who happens to be the best in the world at what you do.
Which is why Mark Cavendish's opinion of his SPOTY prospects is so interesting. He's a two-time world champion, the fastest sprinter on the road and a household name throughout cycling's heartlands but the 24-year-old cannot even make the shortlist for Britain's annual sports gong. Are we so blessed with sporting greats?
Let's think about this for a moment: who have we got who is undeniably the very best on the planet? Not was the best or potentially the best but irrefutably the world's number one at a global sport right now.
Decent arguments could be made for all of those - give or take a caveat or two about specific circumstances - but it isn't an enormous list, is it?
You would have thought there was room for a man who has spent the last 18 months proving again and again that when it comes to the thrilling charges to the line that make road cycling such a spectacle there is nobody who can get close.
Cavendish has claimed 41 wins in just over two years as a professional. Among these triumphs are five stages in the Giro d'Italia, four stages in the Tour de France and a stunning victory in one of cycling's greatest one-day races, the Milan-San Remo. This is on top of what the Manx missile has achieved in the velodrome.
All that and he could probably push his bike down any British high street unrecognised. Not that it bothers him, though.
"I didn't grow up with a blanket over my eyes about cycling's popularity in this country. Sure, it's getting bigger but it's never going to be mainstream like football," Cavendish told me on Monday.
"My goal is to win races - it's not to get the adulation or applause. I'm not interested in my face being recognised, I just want to leave a mark on the sport I love."
He was in London for a day of press interviews ahead of his third tilt at the Tour de France, and judging by the number of hacks in attendance I would say his days under the radar may be coming to an end.
Cavendish put in a tireless seven-hour stint - slightly longer than the time it took him to cover the 298km from Milan to San Remo - and probably answered each question about 30 times. He was personable and polite throughout.
He was also forthright and utterly honest. He just can't help it.
"It's got to the point now that if you beat Cavendish in a sprint you normally win," he told me when I asked if he was a "marked man" in the peloton.
That looks pretty arrogant in black and white, doesn't it? But it was punctuated by a nervous laugh and a coy smile. It's also true, as last month's Giro proved.
In the four mass sprints Cavendish contested in Italy (he missed out on a fifth when he got stuck behind a crash) he lost the first when the more experienced Alessandro Petacchi outfoxed him with an early move. He never got near pulling that stunt again.
The next three times the top sprinters found themselves at the front of the pack, with an empty road ahead of them, Cav simply took the lead from 300m out and stayed there, daring somebody, anybody, to go past him. They didn't.
When a journalist suggested on Monday that Cavendish might not be as quick as he was in 2008 because he wasn't winning by three bike lengths anymore, the rider flashed that I-might-be-about-to-say-something-a-bit-arrogant smile and said: "But you only need to win by one bike length."
It was the same when we all tried to push him into saying this year's Tour de France goal was winning the green jersey, the sprinter's prize for the most consistent finisher.
Cavendish's answers were a disarming mix of reserve, shyness and unshakeable belief in his own abilities.
"If I reach (the finish in) Paris and I win as many stages as I think I can along the way, maybe the green jersey looks after itself," he boasted whilst managing to sound utterly modest.
Again, he is completely right. There are perhaps seven stages on this year's route, including the finale up the Champs-Elysees, which suit him. A betting man would pencil him in for matching last year's haul of four.
And unlike last year's Tour, when he quit early to save his legs for a shot at Olympic gold, or this year's Giro, when his team pulled him out to keep him fresh for the Tour, there is nothing to stop him from completing the three-week ordeal for the first time.
Apart from two mountain ranges and a penultimate day's visit to Mont Ventoux, that is, but even this prospect doesn't fill him with the trepidation it once did.
He has spent the last few months cycling up and down peaks, losing weight and building his endurance. His Team Columbia-Highroad bosses might have called time on his Giro challenge but he was doing 70km rides in the Italian hills last week and his final pre-Tour race will be the very lumpy Tour of Switzerland, a week of hard slog and no sprint finishes.
He might be wrong about SPOTY but it's very, very unlikely he will ever win a mountain stage. He should, however, be able to ride more comfortably with the large group who aim to survive, not conquer, the Alps and Pyrenees.
So a green jersey is within his grasp, even if he refuses to alter his stage-wins-at-all-costs approach: the canny collection of top-10 finishes and intermediate sprints is not his style.
Only one Briton, 1984 King of the Mountains Robert Millar, has ever won a classification jersey at the Tour de France, I'm sure Cavendish will be the second and I think he'll do it this year. It should be the first of many.
But will it change him? I don't think so.
There was a moment in Monday's press conference when he explained how his new book, Boy Racer, wasn't really an autobiography - he hadn't done enough for that yet - it was "more a biography of last year's Tour stage wins".
He then said the biggest motivation for writing it had been to explain himself better as he often sounds like "a tool" when a microphone is thrust under his nose seconds after crossing a finishing line.
But if having the guts to say an Olympic gold isn't as important to a road rider as a Tour stage win, admitting to being annoyed with GB Cycling over his treatment in Beijing or defending cycling's reputation over drugs is being "a tool" then I'll take the post-race interview over the book every time.
The irony, of course, is that Cavendish is a sports star with a personality, it's just he plays the wrong sport and his personality is more complicated than the broad brushstrokes we prefer.
Cavendish would make a reluctant and slightly unlikely SPOTY but a worthy one, nonetheless.