Mark Cavendish proud to win Sports Personality of the Year for cycling

Mark Cavendish says winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year is a victory for his beloved sport of cycling.

The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man won the honour with nearly half the public votes from the 10-man shortlist.

"It makes me incredibly happy and so proud that I can play a part in making cycling a mainstream sport," he said.

We should be favourites for the first medal of the Olympics

Mark Cavendish

Cavendish was a landslide winner of the award with 49.7% of the vote. Golfer Darren Clarke (12.34%) was second and athlete Mo Farah (8.71 %) third.

In 2011, Cavendish was Britain's first winner of the Tour de France green jersey - the award for the race's best sprinter - and he also became the first British male for 46 years to win the world road race .

"It's absolutely a dream come true. I work hard for my sport, I work hard to achieve success but what makes this special is it's bestowed on me by the British public and that's what makes it an unbelievable honour," said Cavendish, who was fourth in the BBC awards in 2009 and seventh last year.

"It's humbling for me. This is the third year in the row I've been in the top 10.

"I see a lot of people out and about riding bikes and it always makes me smile every time I see a family or a child on a bike.

"It's incredible that people are embracing the sport that I love. It really is a beautiful sport if you get to know it, and people are appreciating what we do."

Now the Manxman is looking forward to 2012, which will see him seek more Tour de France glory, gold in the Olympic Games and become a father for the first time.

He has already won 20 stages of the Tour in his career - putting him sixth on the all-time list - and is the first man to have won three final stages in succession since the legendary Belgian Eddy Merckx in 1972.

In a hectic July, Cavendish hopes to defend his green jersey in Paris in July before going on to become the first British male to win an Olympic road race medal, at the start of the the Games on home soil.

"It's going to be hard six days after finishing 3,000 kilometres in three weeks, it's just a case of trying to recover as best as possible," said Cavendish, who is the third cyclist to win the award after Sir Chris Hoy (2008) and Tommy Simpson (1965). Simpson was the last Brit before Cavendish to win the world road race title.

"With the team I have around me, I think we should be the favourites for the first medal of the Games and it would be marvellous to get Britain off to a great start."

Cavendish won five stages at this year's Tour with HTC-Highroad, and will ride for Team Sky next year.

THE TOP TEN

  • Mark Cavendish 169,152 (49.47%)
  • Darren Clarke 42,188 (12.34%)
  • Mo Farah 29,780 (8.71%)
  • Luke Donald 23,854 (6.98%)
  • Andy Murray 18,754 (5.48%)
  • Andrew Strauss 17,994 (5.26%)
  • Alastair Cook 13,038 (3.81%)
  • Rory McIlroy 11,915 (3.48%)
  • Dai Greene 9,022 (2.64%)
  • Amir Khan 6,262 (1.83%)

"With the way my new team is set up, there is no danger of me running on empty," he said.

In April, his girlfriend Peta Todd is due to give birth to a baby daughter.

"The biggest challenge of all will be fatherhood next year and the proudest moment of my life. The baby girl is definitely the best thing that could happen to me," said Cavendish.

Former model Todd told BBC Sport that the award will hold a special place for her boyfriend.

"It's incredible. He's worked so so hard and I know how much the recognition means to him," she said.

"It just shows such a difference in the public perception and the growth of cycling in Britain. I think that probably means more to him than this actual award.

"The support from everyone, on the internet, on Twitter, people picking up the phones, has been incredible. Christmas is going to be so special. I am over the moon for him. He really, really deserves it."