BBC BLOGS - Matt Slater
« Previous | Main | Next »

True greatness beckons for boy racer

Post categories:

Matt Slater | 09:24 UK time, Wednesday, 3 June 2009

"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?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

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.

Becky Adlington? Jenson Button? Sir Chris Hoy? Steven Gerrard? Tony McCoy? Christine Ohuruogo? Kevin Pietersen?

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."

Cavendish wins another stage at the Giro

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.

Cavendish faces the media

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good luck to the guy! Good blog btw.

  • Comment number 2.

    Standing out like a sore thumb in this article is the omission of the name Chrissie Wellington in your list of current number 1 sportspeople. Without disparaging the achievements of any of the above, a convincing argument can be made that she is better at her sport than all of those you list, including Mark.

  • Comment number 3.

    I may be clouded by my own love of sport in general but surely Cav is well known?! The four stage wins last year were incredible and he's been better this year than last in the Giro. I think he can make it to Paris but I don't think he's quite got the stamina to take the green this year. Give him time, though - he's only 24 and it'll come.

  • Comment number 4.

    p.s. I love the Olympics but as a road racer of course the Tour is more important. It's a bit like comparing winning the Football at the Olympics to winning the World Cup.

  • Comment number 5.

    How he didn't do better last year after making British Cycling history in the Tour is beyond me - I know we had Olympics but recognition is recognition at the end of the day.

  • Comment number 6.

    What about GB rowing- a sport full of athletes best in the world at what they do.

    Or Nicole Cooke- consistently the best female cyclist in the world. Olympic and Tour de France wins!

    Or Tim Brabants in the canoe?

    Fair play to Cavendish- hard work and shear determination has got him to the top of his sport. I hope he goes from strength to strength and has a great Tour, keeps out of trouble in the pack and gets the green jersey i'm sure he deserves.

    In a none olympic year- you never know who could get SPOTY

  • Comment number 7.

    We need more true competitors like MC in all sports putting winning first in a marketing drive world. Our kids need role models like this for sport and life - work hard and succeed.

  • Comment number 8.

    it will be Marks time soon I feel , he just needs to keep doing what he has for the last 2 seasons . He is without doubt the best sprinter in the peleton taking the crown from Rob Mcewan , all he needs now is to finish a tour with the green jersey on his back as he acknowledges in the blog here { great by the way )
    Road racing is slowly getting more recognition but sadly is not covered on the main channels so it is only Eurosport where tou can catch the TDF , Giro and classics .
    The depth of true great sports stars in the UK is as low as stated here and many are what you would call minority sports Hoy and Addlington an example , what these two had however is terrestial coverage in a major event which Cav has never had .What he needs is greater exposure and his star will rise

  • Comment number 9.

    Just to help those who didn't [like me] understand brummatt27 - see below.
    Chrissie Wellington is the current Ironman Triathlon world and european champion.

    At 11:02am on 03 Jun 2009, brummatt27 wrote:

    "Standing out like a sore thumb in this article is the omission of the name Chrissie Wellington in your list of current number 1 sportspeople. Without disparaging the achievements of any of the above, a convincing argument can be made that she is better at her sport than all of those you list, including Mark."

  • Comment number 10.

    Good blog but you clearly know a lot more about cycling than you do about national hunt horseracing or formula one. Tony McCoy is definitly not the best at what he does anymore. Ruby Walsh is better than anyone at the moment by a country mile even though I dont like the guy. Jenson Button is only winning the drivers championship because his car is far superior and I feel will soon take his rightful place back as a decent top ten driver when the other teams get their act together and it becomes a more level playing field. Also Steven Gerrard great player that he is, is by no means the best in his position, ever heard of Andres Iniesta, Kaka, Messi or Xavi.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree that Cav has a remarkably low profile here compared to on the continent but as a nation we don't have a great heritage in competitive cycling, so its only top be expected. Have to disagree with the suggestion that he doesn't care about this though. One of the great things about Cav is that he always says what's on his mind. After a great Giro and looking forward to what should be an excellent tour for him, he is likely to be seeing the bright side at the moment. Catch him on a bad day (and a few journalists have) and he seems much more frustrated by the lack of recognition.

    Not sure if he'll manage to top his stage wins from last years Tour this time around. If he's going for the Green Jersey as seems to be the case this year then I wonder how much energy he'll expend on the interim sprints. It often goes to a more 'all-round' sprinter in the mould of Jalabert, who has something to offer on the smaller climbs as well. Don't think Cav is that kind of rider.

    Also slightly concerned that the work he is putting in on the climbs could undermine his sprinting. Losing weight and gaining endurance is all good, but it must come at the expense of some of his explosive speed. Admittedly, Cav can afford to lose a couple of yards to the rest of the pack because he is so dominant, but maybe this is the reason why his Giro wins were closer to 1 bike length than 3 or 4. Would be interested to hear what someone with more knowledge than me about this kind of thing has to say.

    Anyway, can't wait for the Tour. To see Cav win on the Champs on the last day would make up for pretty much anything that had gone before.

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh the beauty of subjectivity over objectivity.

    And opinion over fact.

    Debate rather than downright arguing.

    Cavendish, in my own humble opinion, deserves all credit for what he has achieved, and - I hope - what he will achieve. Including at the very least a nomination for SPOTY.

    And some of the others here argue well, such as for Chrissie Wellington. Etc, etc. Shanaze Reade at one point (injuries are doing their worst for her) deserves mention surely?

    But unless your sport is all over the press pages, and the Sports news, you'll probably be an also ran in most people eyes unfortunately. Most people have heard of Mark Cavendish, and probably recognise him when they see a picture in print. But he isn't necessarily in your psyche like a Rooney or Beckham.

    BTW I believe Gerrard plays a fundamentally different role to any of Iniesta, Kaka, Messi or Xavi.

    Great blog. If you could cover all the bases it would end up being about 1000 (virtual) pages long!

  • Comment number 13.

    #10. I believe that was the writer's point. Although, you could make arguments for those mentioned they are not undeniably #1 - unlike Mr Cavendish.

    As for SPOTY, if Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, the fat lady will be getting ready to sing!

  • Comment number 14.

    Cavendish reminds me of Mario Cipollini - simply a wonderful sprinter.

    one thing's for sure, if Cavendish was Italian, he'd be a house hold name and regarded as a national hero for what he's done so far.

    But to be fair tour cycling has never been in British people's blood - certainly in Spain, France and Italy tour cycling is probably the most popular sport apart from football.

  • Comment number 15.

    Great blog, great rider! I think he can lift the profile of cycling here in the UK, and hopefully with SPOTY.

    Good to hear someone who is undeniably the best in the world in his field and yet doesn't behave like an arrogant, spoiled brat (a la Rooney, Ronaldo, Drogba, et al)

  • Comment number 16.

    # 13 "As for SPOTY, if Andy Murray wins Wimbledon . . . " tennis is on BBC1 and hence proving lordSUPERFRED point in #8.

  • Comment number 17.

    Recognition for cyclists has always been difficult.

    Most general sports fans who have at least a passing interest in cycling can probably remember the winner of last year's Tour de France. Keener fans will remember Giro d'Italia's winner and so on. We know this because it's only the overall winners of the competitions that the mass media take any notice of.

    To the 'average' sports watcher winning a stage in Le Tour is a bit like achieving a fastest lap in an F1 race, or qualifying in pole position - all very good but ultimately meaningless at the chequered flag.

    Cavendish may well have won four stages in last year's Tour - an immense achievement - but the majority of the sport-watching British public will only recall the overall winner.

  • Comment number 18.

    There is one other undisputable current number 1 who is at the absolute pinacle of his sport. Phil Taylor. He also regularly gets no where near a mention for SPOTY etc, but has revolutionalised the sport, and has been integral of taking darts kicking and screaming out of the dark days when it was considered mostly a pub-sport played by largered up louts

    How 'global' darts is is probably up for debate, but thought it was worth throwing Phil's name into the discussion......

  • Comment number 19.

    I know Cav a bit - have done for a good few years, even raced against him a couple of times as juniors (he beat me hands down btw) and I think you have him about right in my experience Matt. Even as a youngster if he disagreed with the way an event was being ran or organised etc... he would stand there and tell people. He's just naturally very up front and honest - which is not a trait us Brits are very comfortable with in the main.

    He's a good bloke and a very good sprinter..... potentially a great one. I'll be in France following the race in July and cheering Cav on - he might need my vocal encouragement on the slopes of the pyrenees and he almost certainly will on the Giant of Provence. Interestingly I think that the situating of Ventoux on the penultimate stage may prevent us having much of a finish on the Champs Eleysee as there will be a few very tired sprinters with no recovery time. Might be the year that a break away on the cobbles works.

  • Comment number 20.

    It may be unthinkable to some, but Cav should be looking at Sean Kelly's career. To my mind he has the nous and the ability, though he's not yet the climber that Kelly was. Why settle for being another McKewan or Bonnen? He seems to learn so quickly and seems to have a really good attitude. His team clearly know they have a diamond in the rough, let's hope he can go on and, as he says, really make a mark!

  • Comment number 21.

    Cavendish is great and fantastic for British cycling, but he is never ever going to win the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia. That is the ultimate challenge and one British cycling is not likely to achieve in the short-term. Before we big up British cycling too much, we need a bit of context.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great blog and I fully expect Cav to shine at this year's Tour. Whether or not he gets any publicity for this depends on how well the England cricket team and Andy Murray fare. If they struggle, Cav should get some public attention finally coming his way

  • Comment number 23.

    Good article Matt, I'm sure spending time talking to Mark is more fun than talking to many of the plastic sports personalities you are faced with.
    As for Mark's abilities, I would say he is currently the only British sportsman in a sport with a genuinely competitive field where it is a big story if he does not win - if its a flat stage the crowd, the reporters and his competitors all expect him to win. Petacchi was overjoyed to get a stage from him at the Giro as he knew it does not happen very often.

  • Comment number 24.

    I grew up with the Tour de France being one of THE highlights of the sporting calendar, but am not a cycling fan. I am a fan of all sports, but I have problems with road cycling, which ultimately will make it hard for me to place Cavendish when it comes to current sporting greats.
    Firstly, road racing for the casual fan is tough to really get. As has been mentioned, you can win X stages of a big race, yet the greatest cyclist can win X minus one and be the overall winner. Sprinting won't win you a major Tour as far as I can see, so how can you compare a sprinter to a time trialler and a climber? Difficult.
    Secondly, and most importantly for me, is the drug issue. A sport which regularly lets itself down is difficult to take seriously. Same as high-end athletics - who can you trust? Obviously Cavendish is no druggie, but the sport is permanetley marred for me.
    So, great he may be, but take a non-road cycling fanatic's point of view on board.

  • Comment number 25.

    Cav will be at the top of his game for a few years to come yet, he's young and has lots to learn (finishing a tour would be a start) - fear not, he'll have his time in the limelight.

    ps: tony mccoy is from ireland

  • Comment number 26.

    Stupid article.

    The best at what he does?

    No he is the best at one small element of what he does and that is not even close to being the most prestigious element either.

    It would be like saying that a snooker player deserves to win just because he is the best safety player in the world regardless of whether he wins anything or not. Or that a swimmer had the best dive off in the world regardless of voerall speed. Or that a footballer is the best corner taker in the world despite being rubbish at everything else.

    He is a great rider and I have the upmot respect for him, but he will nto win SPOTY unless he excels in either the Olympics or the TDF overall standings as they are teh blue-riband events of his sport.

    As for who we have who are truly the worlds best? Slightly unfair as it depends on others levels as well but I would state Phil Taylor and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

  • Comment number 27.

    "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.

    Becky Adlington? Jenson Button? Sir Chris Hoy? Steven Gerrard? Tony McCoy? Christine Ohuruogo? Kevin Pietersen?"

    One major addition to this list would be Chrissie Wellington who is the best female Ironman/Long Course Triathlete at the minute and may end up being the best ever.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Ooops. Good blog but if you're going to go down the "minority sports win nowt" type route and then start flinging names about as to who is a genuine world no. 1 then lets think wider than usual.

    Despite the protestations of the triathlon crew, Ms Wellington has a long way to go until she reaches the global domination and legendary status of Ben Ainslie.

    Now there's a genuine sporting no. 1.

  • Comment number 30.

    To respond to #26 (hackerjack), if you think the Olympics are the blue riband event in cycling (or indeed anything close) you clearly know nothing about the sport.

    And of course you need a team, but then would Ronaldo be world player of the year if he played for Oxford United or would Lewis Hamilton be world champion if he drove a Skoda.

    Great champions acquire great teams and win lots of events. Mark ticks all the boxes.

  • Comment number 31.

    Here we go again. British sports journalism at its very best.

    "True greatness beckons"

    "World's fastest cyclist"


    Good luck to him, but as things stand the guy not only isn't the best at his field, he's not even among the top 30! Wins at selected sprints here and there, by taking part in just what suits him and saving his legs, along with spectacular failures at the Olympics and in Poland, do not constitute greatness, nowhere near, you need much more than that to be regarded as one of the best.

    Contrary to what the article suggests, those into road cycling abroad, especially in the nations where the true stars of the times come from, not only don't rate the guy as much they do here, he's not even on their radar. Cavendish a 'household name' internationally (with a link to someone's quote 2 years ago that 'he can be a star'), mate are you having a laugh? Like the other time you told us that the future of British wintersports is looking rosy? If Cavendish is the new darling, what does that make all those that really shine at the Tour the Giro the Vuelta and the Olympics?

    As usual an article that stinks of desperation for successes that have not come and probably never will. Although in a sport where doping has so much influence, 'impossible is nothing'.

  • Comment number 32.

    Not a lot of chance.

    He could win the Green Jersey in the Tour de France *and* win the final stage on the Champs Elysee and still lose out.

    Won't win it in a summer Olympic year without a gold medal.
    Won't win it if there's a British F1 champion (Button this year, Button or Hamilton in future)
    Won't win it if Murray wins a Grand Slam or gets close (Rusedski won it for losing in the US open final...)
    Won't win it if England win anything at cricket or the Rugby Union world champs
    Won't win it if the Tour de France isn't on terrestrial TV
    Won't win it while people keep talking about drugs the moment cycling is mentioned (not fair, but not that surprising)

  • Comment number 33.

    Agree a lot with what SCOTTMACQ #24 wrote about road racing not being that easy to follow for the casual spectator, and the other comments people have made about Cavendish just winning a few stages and being good at small elements of road racing, yet this article going on about him being the "fastest sprinter on the road" and "best in the world" just reiterates that.

    He's clearly a good cyclist and it's nice to see a British rider enjoying some success in big road events, but it's not like he's been top of the points classifications at the end of the tours, so he's hardly likely to have much success as sports personality of the year is he?

  • Comment number 34.

    Afternoon all, thanks for reading/commenting, here are some replies from me (I'll go in reverse order for a change):

    mjhassett (25) - AP is from Co Antrim, N Ireland, so he's more British than previous SPOTY winner Greg Rudeski.

    jftilbury (23) - Journos love talking to guys like Cav and not just because he's so quoteable. He actually listens to your questions and answers them...he doesn't brainlessly troop out the party line/latest cliche. He's a good bloke too.

    -james-4p (22) - I think you're probably right about Cav getting more love from the media if others disappoint. But I'd throw a few more names in there: the TdF clashes with the Open and we've got a few golfers going well at the mo (Casey, McIlroy, Poults, Westwood), David Haye fights for the heavyweight title in a couple of weeks, F1 rumbles on and you've got world champs in athletics and swimming, so the likes of Paula Radcliffe, Becky A, Tom Daly etc come into know what? I was wrong, we are actually quite good at sport!

    squireman (21) - Indeed, Cav is never going to be a GC contender. He actually gave a really good answer about how his body shape and physiology were all wrong for a challenge over three weeks. But he'll definitely improve. As for a GB rider who could win yellow, well, I think Dave Brailsford is on the case and now he's got some Sky money to spend I wouldn't bet against him. Jonny Bellis and Ben Swift are names that often come up.

    squeezely (20) - Cav should certainly look towards Sean Kelly as an example of what's possible for a sprinter but I think they're slightly different cases. Cav is probably quicker than Kelly was but Kelly was definitely stronger/more versatile than Cav is (or most likely ever will be). So while I can imagine Cav winning multiple green jerseys, I cannot see him winning a Vuelta or finishing 4th in a TdF. I may be wrong, though!

    RetiredNo6 (19) - That's a pretty cool claim to fame...and a great idea for a future blog: sports stars we have competed against as kids. I've got a few...all of them crushing defeats. One even elbowed me in the face, on purpose. He still plays rugby for England. Good point re: Ventoux, although I still think the sprinters will suck it up for a mass sprint in Paris.

    bajantom, stevedaytona, oarsmansteve et al - psycho ball player (12) is right, I was merely throwing a few names in the mix to set the parameters for the debate. We've actually got quite a few world-class sports stars in this country but the point I am making about Cav is that he really is the best in the world at what he does...ok, it's a very specific thing, but he's definitely the best at it.

    boonthefence (10) - You're right, I know more about cycling than horse racing. You're less right about the F1 bit, though, and not remotely right about the football. But then you appear to have missed my line about "a caveat or two" and "specific circumstances". It is my view, shared by many others, that Steven Gerrard is the best player in the world of his type: an attacking midfield player who can shoot from range with both feet, pass the ball long and short, support a lone front man and track back on defence. The fine players you mention all do bits of this better than Gerrard. None, I believe, do it all as well as he does.

    brummatt27 & markapplin - Apologies, you're right, Chrissie Wellington deserves a shout here and certainly a decent mention on SPOTY....but is her sport (Ironman triathlons) big/widely played enough??? Put it this way, if she was World/Olympic champ in Olympic triathlons she would be considerably better known in this country than she is now. As even Cav admits, the Olympics provide an amazing stage for non-mainstream sports.

    That's enough from me. Cheerio

  • Comment number 35.

    NikosBG, here we go again....

    I'll let others point out that you appear to know nothing of the various specialities within the sport of cycling and I'll gloss over the fact that the points you make about Cavendish not being a yellow jersey contender are clearly made in the piece and video. I'll also try to ignore the double standards you display in berating the headline whilst refering to Cavendish's displays in Beijing and Poland as "spectacular failures". Madisons are lotteries at the best of times so losing one because his team-mate was knackered and losing another because his young team-mate crashed in unfortunate circumstances is hardly a disgrace. Particularly for a man who has won two world titles in the event.

    But where I'm going to have pick you up is your ignorant comments about Cav's renown in road cycling's big markets. He's not even "on their radar"?!?!? Oh my, you really don't have a clue, do you?

    As for your bizarre remark about my GB winter sports piece, let's revisit that one after Vancouver 2010, shall we? It seems others agree with my prediction that we'll do OK next year.

  • Comment number 36.

    As much as one has to respect 'Srchrs' Hoy, i do have to say that Cavendish's is already the more glittering palmarés. it will be a travesty if he never gets at least a mention in this SPOTY thing, but the thing is that people expects a 'popular' type of sportsman to win these sort of things nowadays. Hoy won because he was constantly portrayed as an all conquering god with leviathan thighs since his olympic performances; i doubt Cavendish will really get that much media saturation. he does not seem like the kind of guy who would hold his tongue when he finds something not to his satisfaction and this sometimes gets him into trouble.

    i don't believe that SPOTY will be high on Cav's personal wishlist. if he wants to be stopped in the street while with his bike he can just walk around in some Tuscan street..

    i have to wonder what planet NikosBG is actually from? Cavendish certainly IS the sprinter to beat at the moment.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sports personality of the year? I agree with Mark that it seems highly unlikely - I think he already knows how stuck in it's ways some parts of the UK sports "establisment" still are.

    Matt - you and I see things more eye-to-eye now than we have in the past, I can see you fully realise what a superstar this little fellow is - please do your best for him. This is an excellent blog - but please get the message across to those people at the BBC who make the big decisions - decisions about what we gets reported and what gets airbrushed into obscurity.

    All we cycling fans really want is a bit of respect for the sport - and that means that when Mark wins a race like the Milan-San Remo, it's on the evening TV news and he gets the credit he deserves.

  • Comment number 38.

    I saw Cav win a stage last yeah in the TdF at Nimes. Well, saw little of him actually! It was a fanatastic sprint, which won him his fourth win of that tour.
    Generally, as I have been a fan of cycling of some years now, he has certainly been on my radar for a while. I have had to resort to looking up his results on french news sites (L'equipe being a favourite), and try telling me they dont rate him! Only recently have ppl in this country (including the BBC) started taking notice of road races because of the success of Cav last year.
    I do think he has a chance to win green this year, but am still concerned about his ability to go the distance. Ventoux is a notoriously difficult climb, but am pleased to hear that Cav is doing mountain training. Last year he was doing very well until he pulled out, and hopefully he can do the same this year.
    If he does win green, he will have to compete for some of the intermediate sprints as the jersey always goes down to the wire.

    Matt, do you think the team columbia-high road have enough strength to help Cav into stage winning positions and help Kirchen to win yellow this year?

  • Comment number 39.

    #31 As Matt says, you really don't have a clue. Please refain from making absurd comments on a sport which you obviously do not understand and do not follow. Cavendish is one of the most famous names in road cycling. That's a fact. In road cycling there are many different disciplines, and Cavendish is absolutely the best at his field.

  • Comment number 40.

    The best at what he does?

    No he is the best at one small element of what he does and that is not even close to being the most prestigious element either.

    It would be like saying that a snooker player deserves to win just because he is the best safety player in the world regardless of whether he wins anything or not. Or that a swimmer had the best dive off in the world regardless of voerall speed. Or that a footballer is the best corner taker in the world despite being rubbish at everything else.

    He is a great rider and I have the upmot respect for him, but he will nto win SPOTY unless he excels in either the Olympics or the TDF overall standings as they are teh blue-riband events of his sport.

    As for who we have who are truly the worlds best? Slightly unfair as it depends on others levels as well but I would state Phil Taylor and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

    With respect, he is part of a team and his job within that team is to do what he does.

    Using your parameters, Ronaldo could never be the best footballer in the world as he is useless in goal...

  • Comment number 41.

    He is definitely famous in countries that value cycling. I'm Belgian, and his Milan San Remo win was the biggest headline on all the sites of the major Belgian newspapers. And I don't mean "the biggest sports headline", actually the biggest headline overall.
    I'm not a Cav fan, but anyone who knows anything about cycling can't do anything but recognize that he really is the fastest guy in the peloton today, and if he manages to be consistent he's got a good shot at green. Now if only ASO would give us the flat stage profiles already!

  • Comment number 42.


    Go and ask Mr. Phil Liggett who the best sprinter in professional road racing is. I think that guy knows what he is talking about (he's been commentating on the Tour De France for about 30 years). The name he will give you: Mark Cavandish - with NOBODY else even challenging.

    To quote you: "Wins at selected sprints here and there, by taking part in just what suits him and saving his legs." That's right mate. Anyone can just peddle on up to the front of the Tour De France peleton as long as they "save their legs" a bit. No, actually you have to be one of the best cyclists in the world to get anywhere near the font. And when you consistently beat everyone else at the end of races - well, think about it now, that makes you the best sprinter. Cycling is a multifaceted discipline. You are suggesting because he is not the best climber or the fastest over a time trial that he is not ranked number one in his discipline. That is like saying the 100m world record holder isn't the best sprinter because he can't run a fast 1500m. Sheer stupidity on your part mate. Bad luck.

  • Comment number 43.

    Cav is a phenomenon in a sport which is hugely competitive and which, partly thanks to Lance A, has become much more widely popular in recent years. In Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Oz and now the US, cycling is a big, big sport. If he were Italian, he would be a superstar!

    We now have a number of world class athletes competing in the professional peloton (Cav, Wiggins, Swift, Millar, Cooke etc) after years of not very much other than Boardman. Well done to them all. And they are all clean. We should applaud all our sportsmen and women who are able to compete at this level in whatever sport.

    And please, keep up the coverage of so-called "minority" sports and less football (overhyped, overpaid, overexposed, soon to be bankrupt)!

  • Comment number 44.

    Re Chrissie Wellington, ironman triathlons are pretty popular and in my opinion more of a genuine triathlon than the olympic distance where it usually turns out to be a foot race after a bunch swim and bunch cycle!! I believe the statistics are entered 8, won 8.
    Personally since introducing drafting in the olympic distance its a total farce, boring to watch and I do hope the olympics ditch it.

    RE Cav, superstar in the making, shame on most media not to follow him more.

  • Comment number 45.

    Cavendish is at the top of his game at the moment. He is specifically a sprinter, just like Alan Shearer was a specific goalscorer. If he can take the Green Jersey at the TDF then, in my eyes, he should definitely be a strong contender for SPOTY.

    However, that award is voted for by the public. In terms of viewing audience, road cycling pales in comparison to sports such as football, rugby and cricket. Sportsmen competing in such minority sports only get true recognition in Olympic years, when they are given good coverage.

    As such, I can't see a cyclist getting their hands on the SPOTY until David Brailsford's Sky Teams makes and impact on our television screens.

    P.S. Good blog

  • Comment number 46.

    So he calls a press conference to promote (yet another) autobiography and says he'll never get mentioned for SPOTY. And you expect me to believe he's not looking for "adulation or applause"?

    Some of the true greats haven't written 'autobiographies' yet and most (outside of the British ones) wait until they've actually achieved something of note before doing so . . . not after one or two years.


  • Comment number 47.

    Cavendish is not even Britain's greatest current road racer. That honour goes to Nicola Cooke.

  • Comment number 48.

    Apologies, Will509 (38), I missed your question yesterday, and it's a good one. The answer, I think, is probably no. I think it can certainly get Cav in position to win stages (it has proved that plenty of times and Cav was fulsome in his praise for his team-mates) but I'm not sure it can get Kirchen into yellow and keep him there. But is that because the team isn't good enough or because Kirchen isn't good enough? Don't get me wrong, he's very good, but he seems more like somebody with a good shot at the podium as opposed to the outright win.

    BazOfTheBoleyn (47), good point, succinctly made. Nicole has been an absolute star for some time now and has just started to receive her due. She made the 2008 SPOTY shortlist (came 7th) and won shed loads of prizes from the newspapers and funding bodies, so I guess she is slightly better recognised than Cav. As for this year, she's made a slow start to the season - Emma Pooley is out-performing her at the mo - but I'm sure Nicole will pick up.

    2of3 (46), yes, I can see where you're coming from but I should point out that he only made the SPOTY comment because I asked him and the press conference wasn't called to promote his book, it was called by his team to deal with the huge number of requests they were getting for Cav for interviews ahead of the TdF (which is encouraging). His comments on the book were responses to questions from journos who had early copies of it....I didn't know anything about it until the guy sitting next to me pulled it out of his bag and asked Cav to sign it for his dad, which he did with no fuss whatsoever.

    But on the subject of promotion, I should probably point out that Cav was helping to drum up interest in something quite worthy...a charity bike ride from Edinburgh to London:

  • Comment number 49.

    Last year Shane Williams was voted the World's Best Rugby player by the IRB yet didn't get shortlisted for Sports Personality of the Year. I agree that cycling Champions like Cav and Nicole deserve huge recognition. (I've written blog comments before about how fantastic British Cycling is at the moment.)

    But how did a Briton, who in 2008, was the best in the world in a MAJORITY sport, not get mentioned for the award?

    If he was Jonny Wilkinson would the story have been different?

  • Comment number 50.

    I saw him out shopping in Manchester today. He looks more like a climber at the moment he's so slight.
    In terms of his profile, on the continent I don't think I would be the only one to recognize him in a big city.

  • Comment number 51.

    That's the thing about Spoty - it's sport 'personality' which means you have to be in a sport that's seen by the general population to even get noticed - ie be a personality, he's without doubt the king of the bike in this country yet he's right about the fact that the british public judge cycling by what they see at the olympics. Simply they don't watch it any other time.

    I'd bet he'd easily do Chris Hoy in a sprint race - no disrespect to Chris particularly given if he trained for it properly.

    I'd certainly vote for Cav for SPOTY given the opportunity - if he wins green this year surely you lot have to nomincate him no matter what and give him the opportunity.

    My bet however would be Jensen Button, not undeserved either.

    Anyway Good Luck to Cav I look forward to seeing him win a few more stages at least.

  • Comment number 52.

    Matt Slater has broken the house rules! Robert Millar is the only Brit to have won a jersey in a major tour. Matt, understand that the majority population in the World is female. Nicole Cooke can't do much more than wear the World Road Champs Jersey, win the Olympic Road Race, win the Giro and what is left of the women's Tour (after it has been sued by the men's organisation for daring to use the words Tour de France). Cav is not the best road cyclist in the World, otherwise, like Nicole Cooke was, he would be ranked World number 1 road rider. He isn't the number 1 Road rider in the World.

    Matt you have studiously avoided a response on any of the comments that have brought Cooke to your attention in this blog. You have ignored them because you know - to do so totally undermines the theme of your piece. If, as rumour has it, Cooke's Vision 1 team has no main sponsor, it is not surprising when the press airbrush her out of existence. All the old arguments about lack of depth just don't stick for Women's Rroad Cycling. The "pool" she completes in is far bigger than that of the men track sprinters or male pursuiters.

    Matt read the house rules no sexist comments. Cav is the best male road rider in GB. This year we hope that he will finish in Green, in Paris and join Cooke and Millar as other British riders to win jerseys in major Tours.

  • Comment number 53.

    Sorry about typos above. Cav also has a small matter of needing to win the World Cup a couple of times to match Cooke. If you want to speak up for a cyclist who is not getting the press they deserve, remember how the BBC treated Cooke each time she won the World Cup. Take those "men only" specs off.

  • Comment number 54.

    oxygen88, I think you too are a little guilty of ignoring what is actually in the original piece as it undermines the theme of your comments.

    Have another look. I don't claim Robert Millar is the only Brit to have won a jersey in a major tour, I claim he is the only Brit to have won a jersey in the TdF. This is a fact. The women's race is called the Grande Boucle or Tour Feminin.

    And I have responded to a comment about Nicole. See #48.

    As for your comments about Nicole's current team not getting any coverage you must have missed the news piece my colleague James Munro did a month or so ago. It made the Six and Ten O'Clock News progs....not bad for a sports news story that wasn't really news.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's great pub for cycling to have a rider like Cavendish. I'm looking forward to his ride The Tour. As the former "Ed Sullivan" would say "?tonight?, We're going to have a really big show."

  • Comment number 56.

    Well there is no doubt that Nicole Cooke is the world number one in womens cycling. However she did at least get a look in at the BBC SPOTY.
    Poor Cav never got a mention despite proving his class and ability time and again last year. Someone will probably correct me, but Tommy Simpson won SPOTY back in the 60s with less achievements than Cavendish.And come to think of it - as far as anyone can tell - CAV RIDES CLEAN !
    I was at the finish of the 2007 Tour of Britain Stage in Kendal where Cavendish finished a very creditable 2nd after a memorable two man break that finished over Old Town from Kirby Lonsdale and up Kendal's Beast Bank to the line.
    That day the Manxman wanted to prove the point that he could ride a bike and not just sprint. After the presentations this very personable young man, who must have been absolutly knacked, spent 15 or 20 mins. surrounded by a crowd of fans and autograph hunters, signing away, chatting and posing for photos whilst his team mates and managers desperately tried to coax him back to the car.
    That day I knew that I had seen a real sports star !!

  • Comment number 57.

    I apologise for detracting from the obvious topic of Cav being a legend, but something has been niggling at me as I read through the blog, specifically the concensus as to who are the best sports people in the world. I feel I have to comment on the fact that darts and snooker are regarded as sports.

    I must say firstly that I recognise that Phil Taylor and Ronnie O'Sullivan etc. are truelly gifted individuals with high levels of skill, co-ordination and spacial awareness and that to be at the top in their chosen areas takes a level of commitment rarely found in any area of life. Moreover, they deserve all of the success and recognition that they achieve.

    However, to consider them sports people is truly bizarre and a subject that has been under fierce debate for years. But I have to have my say.

    Every single sport in the Olympic games is subject to the participants being physically very fit and usually having to go through a lengthy trial process to prove their fitness against everyone else from their nation. Surely most darts and snooker players would struggle to pass any form of fitness test, especially anything to do with cardiac function or healthy body fat levels. In fact I'd like to bet that most darts players tick the box for clinical obesity (A body mass index equal to or greater than 30%). How on earth can they be considered sportsmen? And it's no surprise that neither 'sport' is in the Olympic timetable.

    Secondly, both of these 'sports' evolved from pub games and are in fact 'still' pub games. They only became recognised as sports when some clever organisers realised that they could make alot of money by pasting advertising and marketting across them and pointing some tv cameras at them. Before this they were simply a way of relaxing with one's friends while drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Which is fine, but it reinforces my point further. Were there mass snooker and darts tournaments with spectator galleries/stadiums before television? No. The original Olympic games date back thousands of years.

    I could go on and on, but I'll sit back and wait for the hundreds of darts and snooker fans to reply from behind their beer glasses.

  • Comment number 58.

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for coming back. Firstly, I had missed your response at 48. I apologise for accusing you of avoiding comment. However, my point stands your piece was sexist and Nicole Cooke and uniquely, the rest of the women Road Racers, get way below their share of the BBC Cycling coverage.
    I had indeed missed James Munros piece. I dont know what it was about to know it was a non-story, made good. Well done on James for doing the piece. One real story that was not covered, and the fact that it was not covered coloured your response, was the recent Tour de LAude. After 10 days racing Cooke was 5th at 7.58 and Pooley was 25th at 51.04. A fascinating race. Nothing reported on it by the BBC. This is not acceptable.
    You were factually wrong identifying that Cooke was in the 2007 SPOTY short list. She was not short listed because that year she lost the World Cup on the final event when, with double points on that event, Marian Vos overtook her in the last event. Cooke had ridden with a knee injury and was undergoing surgery 2 days afterwards. The UCI changed the rules and did away with double points on the last event after that travesty. Not that any of that news filtered anywhere on the BBC.
    You were confusing 2007 with 2006. Cooke was World Cup champion and No 1 in the World (something you still have failed to acknowledge that Cav is not) in 2006. Cooke was 5th in the SPOTY poll that year and her treatment on the night provoked a justified outcry -
    In getting himself off the hook Roger Mosey Director of BBC Sport, wrote
    On the Nicole Cooke points... Yes,
    reviewing the show, we agree that the questioning of Nicole Cooke should have included something more about her considerable achievements this year. But we did cover those extensively in our sports news output at the time on radio, tv and online; and there were updated profiles of Nicole on our website and on interactive television. We were delighted Nicole was on the programme, and we're looking forward to covering her activities between now and the Beijing Olympics. Our aim is to continue to increase the profile of cycling as an Olympic sport in the run-up to London 2012
    And that gets exactly to my point. BBC is covering cycling. Track cycling, Mens Road cycling. But in the year 2007 and 2008 and right up to the Olympic Games, Nicole Cooke and the rest of the womens peloton received NO TV COVERAGE. Nicole Cooke did not ride the World Championships in 2007, the single womens road event BBC covered. Further, she received no TV coverage up to Beijing from October 2006. Roger Mosey did nothing to back up his words. If anything, the only place on the BBC where there is any coverage of womens road events online the coverage this year of womens events is significantly worse than it has been in the last 3 or 4 years. And articles like yours, where you justify claims that airbrush Cooke, Pooley and others out of the story, when you dance on the pinhead of - only the mens tour is called the tour - just add to the blatant sexual bias in the coverage. Please recognise that was the point I was making to you - your article is phenomenally and unacceptably biased given the BBC history of coverage of Cooke and the rest of the female road scene.
    OK, over-egg the pudding, the story sounds good, Cav is best in the World ,( when he so clearly is not the number 1 in the World and quietly ignore that he didnt get a start in the Olympic Road Race and didnt finish the World Road Race champs), but find space for the true hero of road cycling in recent years on the UK scene.

  • Comment number 59.

    You ask for names of athletes who are the best in their chosen sport for at least 18 months like Mark Cavendish, the subject of your article.

    I would like you to consider a gentleman who has been at the top of his sport for many years not just a few months.

    His name: George Digweed. World Champion in his chosen sport of Clay Pigeon Shooting.

    Colin Bourner Ex-Pat Spain

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm always more than happy to respond on my blogs, oxygen88, although in this case I'm slightly less happy that you continue to launch into criticisms of my piece after misquoting me. Criticise by all means, but at least read my story/answers properly before doing so.

    I did not write Nicole was on the SPOTY shortlist for 2007, I wrote she was on the shortlist for 2008. It's there, very clearly, in answer 48, as is a reference to Emma Pooley's form this year. So what all that stuff about me being factually incorrect or confusing 2007 with 2006 is, to be frank, nonsense. In many ways, the fact that Nicole was shortlisted in 2006 as well as 2008 simply reinforces my point that she is on the radar of the general British sports fan in a way that Cavendish isn't....yet, anyway. And yes I remember only too well the infamous Adrian Chiles interview with Nicole, I was annoyed too. I think he did that big bike ride with Alan Shearer as penance. But to say the BBC has ignored Nicole's career is way, way too simplistic, and totally ignores the huge amount of coverage she has received from BBC Wales and this website. You mention the Tour de L'Aude, well, take a look through the archive. There's a nice preview piece all about her written by a Five Live cycling expert...Five Live, by the way, has done plenty on Nicole over the years too. But if you think, given the massive range of interests (sporting and otherwise) we have to cover, that any minority interest (relatively speaking) is going to command regular time on BBC1 or BBC2 outside of the very biggest events with real crossover appeal (ie the Olympics), then you are destined to be disappointed time and time again. We could be having the same row if you were a fan of boxing, rugby league, horse racing, greyhounds, motorbikes etc etc etc. Big Premier League football stories and England Test matches don't always make the Ten these days...the bar is very high.

    Stop obsessing with the coverage Nicole gets on BBC1 and think about the huge amount of coverage she gets from other BBC outlets. Here's just a taste (and you'll find James Munro's report for BBC1's Six and Ten bulletins there too):

  • Comment number 61.

    Matt, Did you actually look at the results of the search you quoted ? Did you have a look at some of the stories it brought up ? My point proved entirely and completely via your search. Thank you. You are living in fantasy land if you think Nicole or the other road girls garner approriate coverage. You continue to avoid the point that your piece was sexist. You are not alone in adopting that stance.
    BBC cycling coverage is not sexist in its coverage of the track and MTB disciplines. However in terms of road coverage, it was very sexist and recently given the surge of coverage generated by the Cav story, it is far more so. What little bit of air was getting to the women's scene, has now been snuffed out with pieces like yours which are written from a stance that it is all about Cav 'n the boys, and the women don't even exist.
    You have made the point very well about the Tour de L'Aude. A great intro on Nicole prior to the classics and Tour de L'Aude. Well done BBC. But what happened afterwards? Did someone run off with the bottle of ink ? Somebody pinched the keyboard ? Nothing of value was written about the results of the women's classics or Tour de L'Aude. Away from Nicole - I can "obsess" about Emma Pooley. She won a World Cup recently. Where was the Headline ? Where was the story? Nothing , absolutely nothing written. Look at the search results. The coverage of Women's road events has got worse this year. Why ?
    The point you are not getting is the BBC cover men's road cycling adequately (given their wide remit). Roger Mossey said they were going to cover Cooke on the road to Beijing but nothing appeared.(He probably saw Track cycling and Tour of Britian on the schedule and thought "job done".) Women's road cycling is done a huge diservice by the BBC in the way it is comparatively ignored and how comparatively lesser achievements of the men are championed by pieces such as yours. From an organisation such as the BBC which does such a magnificent job in so many ways, the unfair treatement meeted out to the road girls stands out. And the fact that you can publish a search that entirely vindicates that argument and yet make the argument - Cooke gets coverage - is an manifestation of that "Blind Spot". The girls get zero coverage on BBC1 or BBC2. They get only the scraps of coverage on any other BBC media outlet, by comparison to the male road riders.
    I must have misread 2008 for 2007 - twice. The points you make in your response regarding that are correct. What you have not addressed is the sexism in your piece and the fact that you had to dance on a pinhead to justify your blind spot.

  • Comment number 62.

    Top dogs in sport! Then try out Rob Jebb. I'll leave it up to all you lot out there to figure out which sport this ultra fit, superhuman is king of!

  • Comment number 63.

    Yes, we really should have more coverage of women's cycling from the BBC. Nicole Cooke's achievements in the sport are inspirational to so many young women cyclists. At grass roots there seems to be a surge in participation in female cycling events. Nicole and the other women 'roadies' deserve a better deal, but lets not forget Victoria Pendleton and the fabulous women's track team.
    By the way, when Nicole Cooke won at the Worlds, she ran back down the track to greet her team mates with 'we won, we won', not 'I' but 'we'!If that ain't sporting personality I don't know what is!
    ps Can't wait to see Cav in the Tour.

  • Comment number 64.

    oxygen88, simply repeating your accusations over and over again doesn't give them any more validity. You use a good phrase, though...."appropriate coverage". That is the BBC's challenge in a nutshell, be it drama, news, religious programming or gardening shows. Nicole Cooke and women's road cycling is no different. You think the coverage is inappropriate, fine. I don't think we've had a similar single complaint. We get plenty about all kinds of other stuff, I assure you. So I'm guessing the 116 stories the website has written with the words "Nicole Cooke cycling" in them in the last year alone, is deemed to be appropriate by the vast majority of licence-fee payers.

    As for your charge of sexism in the original story, please. It's about a male cyclist and I am clearly comparing him to other male cyclists. In the current debate about Roger Federer's place in history do you hear constant reference's to him being the greatest MEN'S tennis player in the world? No, you don't. Because you don't need to unless you specifically bring women into the debate too and attempt to compare across the genders.

    RomneyRoadRouleur, you're right, Rob Jebb's feats are very impressive. But I notice we have a superb female fell runner too, Angela Mudge. How apt.

  • Comment number 65.

    That will teach me....I see politebigbird has complained as well. Fair enough. We'll do what we can to improve our coverage of women's cycling but please believe me when I say deciding what is news and what isn't is not an easy balancing act. And we are soon reminded when we get that balancing act wrong.

  • Comment number 66.

    Matt, I think you opened up yourself with "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."
    Mark is a road rider. Much quoted are his sound bites about comparisons of an Olympic Track gold medal and achievements on the road. As Oxygen88 pointed out there are World rankings and only 1 Brit has ever been number 1. Mark is a fantastic rider and is going to be for some years yet, providing he stays clear of injury. He may well become number 1 and given the right course and the right support, he can win the World Road Race title. As everyone states he is unlikely to win the No 1 race in the world for men - the Tour, or as many press commentators call it, unaware of the irony, Le Boucle. I am obviously biased and have to keep out of a lot of debate. However, it is not just Politebigbird and Oxygen88. Have a look at . I have to say I was shocked that nobody reported Emma's great win. No preview, no result and then no post event analysis. It is not just that one instance, the BBC Women's road cycling coverage is shallow and sporadic. Emma, Nicole and Co. deserve much better. BBC have upped their coverage of cycling in all forms in recent years and great credit to them for that commitment and execution. There is, as Oxygen88 and the others pointed out, one single area that probably has, in the last year even receded and that is women's road. I think there is a great story about the whole circuit waiting to be told. In many ways it is like several aspects of the men's scene in the 1950's.

  • Comment number 67.

    Matt, so we have it established that Cav is not the best male road cyclist in the world and certainly not the best road cyclist in the UK. He is not undeniably the very best on the planet unless we start to trim down the definition. He is the best male road cyclist who is a sprinter, in the World today. A highly worthy but somewhat different title. We do have a UK sports media that has just discovered road cycling and has now gone Cav crazy. It has its hero and he is just right for pushing up the publicity tree. Good luck to him.
    Back to the pin-head you wish to occupy - you crossed the genders with reference to Rebecca Adlington. Quite how one defines the best swimmer (of either gender), I will leave to others to argue. Steph Rice with 3 Golds or Britta Steffen with the 50m free, 100m free double, may have their supporters. Quite how swimming gets so many medals is a mystery that generates debate each games. But it is fact they do and historically they have.
    Moving on - you obviously did not look at some of those 119 references. Many of them, but not all, offer tokenism in the extreme. A whole article on the mens race with a winner unknown to the majority of the UK audience and a sentence with the name Nicole Cooke in. In the Womens race Nicole Cooke came XX That is not reporting, it is maintaining suppression. You have also now had others identify the same sexual bias in reporting. You have taken that on board and if you can do something about it that would be great. I am sure Roger Mossey wanted to do something about it in 2006 and if he was to be asked in 2008, just before he left his job, I am sure he would have thought he had addressed it. The difficulty is, that unless you look closely - there is no problem. There I have found a nice story about Cooke and the coming classic season. The fact that next to nothing follows it, but we have everything on the mens classics does not strike a discordant note until you know what you cannot see a report on the race to match the report on the mens race.
    Cav cant win 3 golds on the road at the Olympics. He might gain proper and deserved adulation for his fantastic exploits in the Tour. But if Cav were to win the World Cup twice, become World number 1 male cyclist and win the Giro and Tour, and the World Championship and Olympic RR, I think, quite rightly he would be more in line for a knighthood like Sir Chris, than an MBE like Nicole Cooke or any member of the 4 man team pursuit. Oh and if he were to do all that he would not come 6th or 7th in the SPOTY. Move over Jason Button. Well done for championing Cav but if you are looking to write about a star that is not recognised, you were looking in the right place but the wrong side of the fence.

  • Comment number 68.

    Re 64 Matt. Angela Mudge is not on the same planet as RJ, who also rides a bike - in his spare time - like a pro !
    Good blog about Cav. Though why on earth did he turn out on the track again in Poland? He really does not have to prove anything in the velodrome as his failure to win a medal at the Bejing Olympics was all Bradley Wiggins's fault.
    Talking of Wiggo, do you rate him for the TdF prologue? I bet that if he wins it he will get more publicity than half a dozen Cav stage wins !

  • Comment number 69.

    Cav may be number 1 at sprinting, but he is not number 1 at cycling. The winner of the Tour De France is number 1 at cycling, and were Cav to win the Tour itself (not possible this year, unlikely in future years, but you never know), then I think you will find he would definitely be nominated and probably win SPOTY ! He is essentially number 1 at a sub-section of a sport right now

  • Comment number 70.

    RE 69. Strange then, but how come that Lance Armstrong, 7 times TdF winner, has never been the winner of BBC SPOTY, or if my memory serves me right he's never been nominated ? ? ?

  • Comment number 71.

    Apologies for the delay in replying, Tony, you made some good points, as you have in the past on this forum and others. But I fear you have followed oxygen88's lead in using fragments of this piece to make statements about a much broader issue: the correct amount of coverage the BBC should give, across all its outlets, to women's road racing in general, and your daughter in particular.

    I'm sure we've swapped emails on this before so you should know I have sympathy for your cause and as you can see from my archive I only ever write about "minority" sports and stories. But I am not the head of sport at the BBC, neither am I the editor for any of its main outlets. And to be honest with you I'm not sure you'd see as much women's road racing as you would like on BBC television even if I was in charge. It's a finite resource we're talking about and there are soooo many claims on it.

    That said, should the website have written about Emma Pooley's recent win? Yes. International success for a GB Olympic medallist should always a warrant a report.

    But can I just put you and oxygen88 straight on one thing? It's fine to criticise my blogs - I genuinely don't mind - but what I do mind is when people misquote me to launch attacks. Nowhere do I describe Cav as "undeniably the very best on the planet". I say something similar to set up the point about the kind of thing that gets you on the SPOTY shortlist - as Nicole has managed twice - but I then refer to caveats for all those (very subjective) choices....therefore answering the point oxygen88 et al raised about other candidates (although Steph Rice and Britta Steffen are not eligible for the main SPOTY prize). But in regard to Cavendish I make it very clear that I am refering to one particular aspect of cycling..."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". To reinforce that I am talking about mass sprints I then spend a par or two specifically talking about them. Nowhere do I make bigger claims for his standing in cycling. In fact, I categorically state this in my first set of responses (34). So please, continue to comment but at least base your comments on what I have actually written.

    RomneyRoadRouleur, I think Cav went back to the track because he likes winning and it also keeps him sharp for the road. I also know that he and Wiggo are mates again. As for it being Wiggo's fault in Beijng, maybe. I think it was a bit more complicated than that and Cav seems to blame Brailsford more than BW. And if BW wins the prologue - and he's got a good shot, although he's not the favourite - he'll get a lot of coverage, yes. He's a bit better known to the average punter and he would be wearing yellow. But if Cav wins 4 again I think he'll get loads of coverage too. As for Lance, hasn't he won the overseas SPOTY award??? Not sure, but he probably should have at least once.

  • Comment number 72.

    I'll have to be careful how I say this as I really am not intending to be sexist, BUT:

    Cav is the best cyclist in the world at the moment (there is no other cyclist at the moment that is so dominant in their part of the sport ie Sprinting/General Classification/Time Trial/Climbing). Nicole Cooke is a legend in WOMEN'S cycling. If you put her in a race against men she would not win. This is not sexist, it is a fact.

    We are naturally fascinated by the people that achieve the status of being the best on the planet. This is almost always a man because of the physiological make up of the male body with its extra muscle mass etc. This is the reason male sport receives more coverage - because it is the very highest level of physical achievement on the planet. This is also the reason the paralympics do not receive as much coverage as the Olympics, although I was impressed with the coverage it did receive this year - well done to the BBC.

    Two other quick points:
    -I agree darts/snooker etc are not sports.
    -There should be a female SPOTY too and Nicole Cooke should have won it.

  • Comment number 73.

    re post 70 - Armstrong is an American, and SPOTY is won by British sportspeople. There is an overseas award too - I don't know if he ever won that or not, but anyway, I do think if Cav won Le Tour he would become mainstream and at least be nominated, and in a weaker year, would probably win it

  • Comment number 74.

    Tourmalet, to compare Cav or any other male race with any other female race you would have to be able to observe both. The point made was that the BBC have uped their game in every aspect of cycling bar female road cycling. It is not as if there is too little on TV (Matt) it is that there is none outside the World champs and Olympics. Tony Cooke made the point that even the website coverage is shallow and sporadic and then, as if with a desire to prove the point, we have a BBC website story about Nicole leading a tour in Spain and 2 days later we have zero by way of a follow up. Previously I joked about somebody pinching the keyboard. BBC, you can do a great job when you want to, what is it with women's road cycling - do the BBC just want to do it badly. In the meantime, if the viewers are only given stories about the men they will only have an interest in the men. It has nothing to do with whether they went round the track in 48 seconds or 43 seconds. Every experienced cyclist I spoke to thought the last Women's World Championships was one of the best road races they had ever seen. It had nothing to do with the time they covered the course in, it was the interplay of the various athletes.

    Armstrong has won the overseas SPOTY. Cooke won the German TV overseas SPOTY equivalent.

  • Comment number 75.

    It is the BBC Sports PERSONALITY of the Year, not Sport's Person of the year. Although he may be a very fast rider, unfortunately Mark Cavendish and his sports story is not very interesting. No heroic returns from a dreadful illness (ala Armstrong), no spectular comebacks, no flamboyant outbursts, no underdog overcoming all odds, etc. etc. i.e. he's a nice chap I'm sure, but in the end not very interesting......

  • Comment number 76.


    Do you actually trust any prediction you make about the greatness of sporting stars. Not long ago you were laughing at Andy Murray's prospects. Surely you read that piece back and blush now. Let's hope for the sake of Cavendish that you're more accurate this time!

  • Comment number 77.

    Brilliant, you're back! You're not going to embarrass yourself again by trying to take on the world whilst tipsy at your keyboard, are you? I know you stopped reading the piece you're referring to long before the end, but I'll point out for the 100th time and final time that I was laughing at the Olympic tennis tournament, not Andy Murray. I think I finished that piece by suggesting he would go on to do well at the US Open a few weeks later....oh, and look what happened!

    Anyway, nice to see you back commenting on my pieces again. All our welcome.

  • Comment number 78.


    I seem to recall you embarrassed yourself rather badly during that debate too. I was tipsy - what was your excuse? Do you still think Murray is under the illusion he's a rising star?


  • Comment number 79.

    I did not want to come back here but events at the week-end emphasised my points and then added to them hugely. Cav has yet to win a Senior National Championship. Despite all the hype, Britains best ever road racer (ok not you Matt yours was 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.). The subject of your article still has yet to win his first Senior British title.
    I watched at the week-end and saw a rider in the World Champions rainbow bands on white top. That is a pretty good give-away to being the best in the World. Cycling marks out the main players more than any other sport. That rider had number 1 on the bike and the jersey. In cycling, number 1 always goes to last years winner. Road Racing is a tactical sport. This was a race where everyone else in the field was going to maximize their tactical game plan to beat just one rider above everyone else. Tactics as well as strength are required in road racing. One without the other is nearly useless. I watched at the end of the British Championships, the rider with number 1 on, walk up the stairs to the podium. On Monday morning I looked at the Times. I looked at the Telegraph. In each was a story about the week-ends racing. The tokenism in the reporting of the womens event was breathtaking in its chauvinism. Matt, that your article followed the pattern is not a crime. The Sun doesnt pretend to be non-sexist. There are lots of pretty girls with little in the way of employment prospects, who will earn a buck by doing what they have to do to get on page 3.
    I also spoke to the relatives of one of the other female riders trying to make her way on the continent and follow in Pooley and Cookes footsteps. The team has no money, the riders receive no wage. I did not ask why. The answer is obvious. I am not a senior marketing executive, but if I was and I saw this article or saw the coverage Cooke received for winning her 10th British title, I would tell any agent of any female road cyclist to take a running jump if they came asking for sponsorship. The hard facts are that even winning an Olympic and World Title, winning 10 national titles, in short, doing anything is a waste of time whilst the male journalists execute their own brand of apartheid. Since I first wrote in this blog on 5th June, BBC coverage of cycling has confirmed in its actions since then, every point I made. Emma Pooley barely exists and Cooke is seriously downplayed. The BBC is not the Sun. You have codes of conduct. We expect so much more from your organization and mostly the Beeb delivers. I would not waste my life writing to the editor of the Sun or even the Times or Telegraph. If they think the only pictures they should show of female sports stars are tennis players in short skirts, then it is up to them and their shareholders.
    In terms of your article my anecdote. In Abergavenny town waiting for the race to pass, an elderly gentleman comes out of his house. Is Cavendish riding ? No this is the womens race. Oh, when is Cav riding? Tomorrow ? Emma Pooley is riding. Who ? And Nicole Cooke. Blank stare. The rider who won Britains first medal in Beijing. Oh yes. And this is from somebody in Wales ! But he probably reads his newspaper - have a look at
    Word count - 733, number of words about the womens race 14. And this was virtually the press release from the organizer. These guys need to seek help, their ideas are from the middle ages. Should a wife have a dowry ? Can she open a bank account in her own name ? Clearly females are a sub-species. Matt, your organization and you can do far better.

    If the gentleman had been 113, Cooke would have been the only Welsh member of the sub-species he would have experienced winning an individual gold. Perhaps he should write a note for his grandson to pass onto his great grandson keep a look out for 2120, you can read your local paper and go out onto the street and ignore the next Welsh female gold medalist. As for Pooley, well she might be giving the best ever cyclist GB has ever produced, the best ever run for her money on home soil but not even a footnote who ?

  • Comment number 80.


  • Comment number 81.

    This is a great blog!

  • Comment number 82.


    The list of "irrefutably the world's number one at a global sport right now."


    Are you being serious??????

    OK it is possible to make a case for cavendish if you can stretch the imagination to believe that a small niche segment of a sport can be classified as a sport. but steve gerrard - irrefutably the world's number one at a global sport right now - there is no need to explain why that is a rediculous proposition. likewise jensen button.

    out of the whole list chris hoy is the only one you could possibly justify that statement for and even then you need some pretty huge "caveats".

    however, to claim that any of the others are "irrefutably the worlds number one in a global sport", you need much more than a few caveats - you need balls the size of watermelons! (or you could be one of those cheerleader type reporters that the BBC specilises in)

  • Comment number 83.

    75. Now that Cav has crushed the opposition twice in two days, and worn the Green Jersey for the last three days in the world's biggest annual sporting event, do you still think that he's not very interesting ?

  • Comment number 84.

    Cav lives down the road from me and I have known him since Laxey school days.
    I just want to say that Mark you at least get the recognition you deserve here... Cycling is now just as popular as football. You are a legend here already.

    Go and get that green jersey my son!

  • Comment number 85.

    I agree, we do not recognise the true sports personalities of men and women in this country. I agree Cav should be up there, but it amazes me that Phil Taylor does not even get a look in. He has won 14 world titles and won over 70 major tournaments. It just shows unless you are playing a high profile sport you will not get a look in. Wouldnt surprise me if Button picks up this years award.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.