Nowadays, Mark Cavendish is widely regarded as the best sprinter in the world, and arguably the best sprinter ever. In fact, in 2012, he was named by French newspaper L'Equipe as the best sprinter that the Tour de France has ever seen. So how has the Manx Missile established himself as the world's best?
In 2007, at the age of 22, Cavendish started racing on the road, and notched up 11 victories, equaling the record set by Alessandro Pettachi for number of wins in a debut season. His breakthrough came in the 2007 Scheldeprijs race in Belgium, where he triumphed.
In 2008, he won his first Grand Tour stages, winning two stages at the Giro d'Italia before winning four stages at the Tour de France, widely known as the world's greatest cycling race. He won four stages despite withdrawing early in order to prepare for the Beijing Olympics. Although he had many more victories, these were the highlights of his season.
2009 was arguably one of Cav's best seasons. In March, he won the prestigious monument Milan-San Remo, after beating Henrich Haussler in a sprint on a parcours where most people thought that he would get dropped on the final climb.
Furthermore, the Briton won six stages of the Tour de France, including the final stage on the Champs-Elysees, where he and his lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, picked up a stunning 1-2 finish.
2010 was another good year for Cavendish, with the highlight of his season again being the Tour de France, where he won another five stages to take his tally of race stage wins up to 15. He also won the points classification in the Vuelta a Espana.
Many regard 2011 as Cavendish's most successful year. Going into the season, Cav declared that his two main priorities were the green points jersey at the Tour de France and the rainbow Jersey at the World Championships.
In the Tour de France, he won five stages, and won the points classification, becoming the first Briton ever to win the maillot vert. The latter part of his season was completely focused on the World Championships Road Race.
Very rarely do WC parcours suit sprinters, but this was one such occasion, and Cav was determined not to miss out. The Great Britain squad was at the front for pretty much the whole day, and as a result, all of Cav's team mates were tired towards the end. This meant that he would have to fend for himself. He did this brilliantly, and won the race, becoming the World Champion.
For 2012, Cavendish joined Team Sky. His first target was the points classification at the Giro d'Italia. Unfortunately, he missed out by a single point to Joaquim Rodriguez. In June, he was part of the squad in which Bradley Wiggins became the first ever winner of the Tour de France.
However, he did not enjoy a lot of success himself, only winning three stages of the Tour. Nonetheless, he did win the final stage on the Champs-Elysees for a record fourth time.
Cav's main target for 2012 was the men's road race at the London Olympics. Unfortunately for the Manx Missile, the British-led peloton was unable to bring back the breakaway. After the race, he criticized the Germans and the Australians, who refused to help the British.
It was certainly an underwhelming year by his standards. In October, it was announced that Cav would join Omega Pharma - Quick Step for 2013.
In 2013, Cav's main priority was again the points classification at the Giro d'Italia. He dominated the sprints at the Giro, winning the points classification in style. By doing so, Cav became only the fifth rider in history to win the points classification in all three Grand Tours. He also won two stages at the Tour despite suffering from illness.
Cavendish has impressed since 2007, dominating the sprints since the start of his career. Still only 28, Cav still has a long future ahead of him. For Mark Cavendish, the sky truly is the limit.
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