BOY RACER, Mark Cavendish’s ego hits you like a Manx Missile

I’ve just realized that I haven’t wrote a proper review in awhile and I just finished a book, I also have several old books and movies I’d like to dust off and review so today I’m kicking off… REVIEW WEEK! That’s right; expect a book of movie review everyday this week.

Starting off review week we have a book I just finished entitled “Boy Racer” by Mark Cavendish. Mark doesn’t need an introduction to anyone who follows bike racing, but if you don’t then he is the dominate sprinter and at the age of 25 has already won 14 stages if of “le Tour De France.” In fact as I’m typing this the final stage of the 2010 tour is happening and by the time I finish this review he may have 15 stage wins.

I was a little surprised when I saw “Boy Racer” on the shelf, I had no idea that it existed; I usually see advertisements for books like this for months in magazines and the web. I was also surprised because I know how young Cavendish is and I thought, “what could a 24 year old be writing about.” I hesitated but ultimately bought the book thinking I could loan it to my riding buddy who has loaned me several books.

I want to make it clear that I want to separate my opinions of Cav’s book from my opinion of the man himself. The first thing I did after buying this book was to search around for a ghost author, to my surprise there wasn’t one. Its not that I don’t think that Cav is incapable of writing his own book, I just figured he didn’t. Most sports autobiographies are ghost written or written by retired riders, apparently Cavendish found time around the racing, training and traveling to write the book himself, and what a book it is.

I stormed through “Boy Racer” actually forcing myself sometimes to put it down so I didn’t read it too fast. I was really enthralled. First off it’s really British, or I suppose Northern, From my vast cultural study of Northern England (The Beatles and Oasis) I knew that people there speak there own unique form of English some of which I can hardly understand. Throughout the entire book it doesn’t feel like Cavendish is trying to do anything but be himself. It really feels like he’s sitting in a coffee shop and just telling stories, gratuitous amounts of profanity joyfully included.

The book is divided into stages as opposed to chapters; there is also a prologue, introduction, a epilogue and a chapter on Milan-San Remo. Each Stage tells a story from its corresponding 2008 Tour de France stage and then makes a connection to some topic which Cavendish will expand upon, such as his upbringing on the Isle of Man, British track cycling, his youth racing, his thoughts on doping, teammates, and so forth. Generally there was just enough to leave me satisfied, and maybe wanting just a little more. Sure he could probably write whole chapters about his early days on the track, they would probably be boring.

Overall the theme of the book seems to be “I am Mark Cavendish, I am the fastest man in the peloton,” a big claim but on he has no trouble backing up. Cavendish has rocketed to the forefront of professional cycling by winning stages in the most prestigious road races in the world, and the book stays focused on the experiences he’s had so far on becoming the greatest sprinter of all time, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will be. This book brought to life for me, more then any other I’ve read, the visceral experience of racing and contesting a sprint, I found his writing to be brilliant.

Most riders typically limit their victory celebrations to raised arms and fist pumping, Cavendish wins so many he plans them out in advance, like here when he salutes his new team sponsor HTC.

When discussing racing with a fellow rider a few days ago, he droned about how easy the sprinters like Cavendish have it, getting a free ride from their team to the end of a stage where they use their gift to beat out 179 other more deserving guys. I’m pretty sure the guy has never contested even an amateur race, but like most arm chair quarterbacks knows more about it then the actual participants. Cavendish takes on this notion and describes just how difficult it is to win a race, let alone just make it to the end in one piece. Everything has to be perfect, the team has to control the race, the lead out train has to perform like clockwork, the directors have to give accurate information, the mechanics must have the bikes perfect, and despite claiming his Columbia-HTC team the best there is, he still gives examples of where a small mistake has cost, or nearly cost him a race.

So I mentioned I didn’t want to confuse my opinion of Cavendish with my opinion of the book, so what about my opinion of Cavendish? Well most of us, me included, have this little voice in the back of our heads that remind us not to say what we really think. We follow that old rule, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t know what this is called, but the little voice generally keeps me out of trouble when I remember to listen to it. I think Cavendish doesn’t listen to his little voice all that often. It is usually much easier to heed the voice’s warnings when writing, but again Cavendish recklessly writes his true feelings with little regard to how they might affect other people.

This lack of a “little voice” makes Cavendish’s book refreshingly honest and entertaining, it also makes him a jerk. In Cav’s defense he takes himself to task more then once for spouting off at the mouth, and along with his claims of being the fastest he gives a great deal of credit to his team. Despite what I think of Cavendish there is no second thoughts about this book, if you are fan of bike racing you should read it.  Oh by the way, Mark Cavendish now has 15 tour wins.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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1 Response to BOY RACER, Mark Cavendish’s ego hits you like a Manx Missile

  1. Tim says:

    The book is definitely ghost-written. I’m sure I’ve been told who the writer was, but I cannot remember for sure – I believe it was a cycling magazine journalist.

    As you say, Cavendish is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of chap – but he is also refreshingly honest – sometimes too much so! I’m a huge Cav fan, but he constantly makes me cringe with some of his spur-of-the-moment actions. But the pro peloton needs more characters like him and Andy Schleck, who are willing to share their thoughts and not always communicate in PR-speak. It would be a pretty dull world otherwise.

    As for the book, it may be ghost-written but you can very much hear Cav’s voice coming through on every page. People may not like everything he has to say – and I’m sure the book serves only to reinforce both positive and negative perceptions of him – but by the end of it, you definitely feel that you have learned something about this amazing young sprinter.

    If you’re interested, here’s my review of the same book. You’ll also find lots of cycling coverage elsewhere on the blog.

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