Sunday, 12 August 2012

Boy Racer: Mark Cavendish (Isle of Man)

Boy Racer steps behind the scenes of the Tour de France. It unmasks the exotic, contradictory, hysterical and brutal world of professional cycling from the compellingly candid viewpoint of someone right in the thick of it. Written off as ‘fat’ and ‘useless’ in his youth, Mark Cavendish is now cycling's brightest star.  His extraordinary quadruple stage-win at last year’s Tour proved him Britain’s best ever cyclist. Some have called him cocky, but to anyone who doesn’t like his style, Mark will simply shrug his shoulders and reply, ‘I know I’m good. There’s no point lying about it. ’Peers say that they have never seen anyone with Cavendish’s hunger for success and while this fearlessness – both in the saddle and on the record – has at times led to controversy, it has also earned him the respect of ever more fans. In Boy Racer we follow him through through the mayhem of the Tour de France in a page-turning journey of pure exhilaration.

Until the route for the recent London 2012 Olympic Road Cycling Races was announced, I had little or no interest in the world of professional cycling. When it was announced to the world's media that the quiet Surrey village of Box Hill, where I live would form a large (in fact pivotal) part of the route, all that changed, it had to in order for me to report back to the rest of the village through my role (as it was then) as Editor of the village newsletter, Box Hill News. Watching the London Surrey Cycle Classic (otherwise known as the Test Race) provided a small taste of the excitement that was to come, when the world's top athletes in this exciting sport sped quite literally past the doorstep. Nothing could have prepared me for the exhileration of the Olympics themselves, two days that I shall never forget.

You would never guess that this book was ghost written (by cycling journalist Daniel Frieb), and he has done an expert job, as it is written so expertly in Cav's own style. The man himself has come across occasionally as arrogant, sometimes as over confident, and often as downright rude, but here to attemps to put his side of the story, portraying himself as a man who very much knows his own mind, strengths and weaknesses and is not afraid to challenge the status quo. I think we need a few more Cav's in this world, for it strikes me that this is a brutally honest young man.

From his childhood on the Isle of Man, to his relationship with ex fiancee, to his cycling exploits, trials and triumphs, it is all here in stark and brutal honesty, with no holds barred. This is a book that not only holds great human interest, helping me to understand what makes this man tick, but which also helped me to understand more about the cycling world, the importance of team work and  how the riders help each other. Cav went up enormously in my estimation when towards the end of book, he detailed the reasons why he turned down a 100 percent pay rise to stay with his (then) current team, but he knows that it is his team makes who are as responsble for his success as he is himself - they are the ones who helped and supported him along the way, and this is in the end far more important than any amount of wealth.

He comes across then, despite his media image, as a level headed young man who understands what really matters, and knows where his loyalties lie, qualities which are all too lacking in other high profile sports I can think of. I for one am eagerly anticipating the next installment of this remarkable athlete's meteoric success, which will go straight to my shopping basket the moment it is released.

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