Cavendish signs off as world champion, looks ahead to ‘new things’


VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Mark Cavendish closed out his year as world champion counting down the minutes to the start of today’s title race in Maastricht, Netherlands. Now, he looks ahead to 2013, which he hopes will see him better the mark of 14 major individual wins he set this season.

“I was counting down. With one minute to go, I told Steve Cummings I have one minute left as world champion,” said Cavendish on Sunday afternoon. “I hope that who takes the jersey off of me will do it respect.”

Cavendish quit the race after leading Great Britain over the 100 kilometers from Maastricht to the circuits around Valkenburg. After two times around the finishing loop, his legs were giving in and on the third lap, he dropped back.

Fans cheered for the “Manx Missile” on his last time up the Cauberg, solo. He pulled off the course after 156.3km and headed to the bus just behind the top of the climb. A small group of journalists surrounded him to find out how it had gone.

“I’m fucked! I’m more tired after 140K than I was after 260K at the last year’s world championships,” he said while sitting on the steps of his team bus.

Cavendish helped the team put Jonathan Tiernan-Locke — Great Britain’s protected rider — in position for the final and called it a day.

“I like to take up the race; there’s no point of sitting in,” said Cavendish. “Looking at the Olympics, I know other teams take different tactics, but we’ll never do that. We’ll take it on.”

Cavendish said he appreciated the send-off on the Cauberg as he closed out a year in the rainbow jersey.

“It was really nice — incredible. I had goose bumps on it actually,” he said.

But Cavendish nearly didn’t make it to the bus. One fan earlier in the race nearly hit him with a sign advertising a Maastricht bar.

“It hit me — just some dickhead with this wooden sign. The thing went into my head, this proper full on wooden sign. I got a sore neck from it, actually,” said Cavendish. “[A lap later] I had my bottle ready. I was like, ‘I’ll get him,’ but the camera was on me.”

Sky and a rainbow jersey

After winning the world championship last year in Copenhagen, Cavendish announced he would join British ProTeam Sky over the winter. He teamed up with his country’s trade team and its stage race star, Brad Wiggins. It was to be a dream team, especially heading into the Olympic year and with London hosting.

Cavendish won 15 times, including his last time riding in the rainbow jersey in the Tour of Britain’s eighth leg to Guildford. However, he suffered as Wiggins made a historic run of wins through Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France. Sky gave its full backing to Wiggins at the Tour and left little support for Cavendish. Instead of winning his usual five to six stages, he only won three. Of course, three Tour stage wins would make the career of many sprinters. Cavendish said he had mixed feelings on his rainbow season, which was the most successful as far as win tally is concerned since Tom Boonen in 2006.

“As a world champion, it’s been good I think. The last more successful person was Tom Boonen in 2006, after he won in 2005,” Cavendish said. “I’m never happy unless I can get the maximum amount out of myself. I don’t think I got the maximum amount of myself this year.”

Cavendish is rumored to be working with Sky’s management to end his three-year contract early. He would need to pay a hefty buy-out fee, but if he did, he would be free to sign with a new team. Omega Pharma-Quick Step is rumored to become his new team. He wouldn’t confirm a transfer on Sunday, but Cavendish’s former High Road director Brian Holm — and his former bike sponsor Specialized — is in the driver’s seat at the Belgian Omega Pharma squad.

“On to new things now, hopefully,” he said. “So, we’ll see what happens.”