Team Deceuninck-QuickStep held their annual team presentation on Wednesday, featuring new signing and British cycling veteran Mark Cavendish. Cavendish gave an interview at the presentation, where he stated, in his 15th year at Grand Tour level, that he has plenty left to give to the cycling world and to the team for which he now competes. “I’m a realist” he said, at the team’s virtual media day, “I’m not looking to hang on to something or try to finish my career as I want to in a fairy-tale way. I just know I’m still good." This remains to be seen. There’s certainly evidence to that effect, but the man is, without question, nearing the end of his career. The question that lingers is: How do you know when to hang it up?
Looking, first, at the attitude of a premiere athlete, such as Mr Cavendish. It will be, without exception, one of absolute dedication and commitment. The discipline shown by top-level athletes such as he is unmatched by almost any other career path. This particular career path, the journey to the top of a sport, often starts, basically, in infancy. Those who reach the heights that so many aim for are usually born into it. Their path is often chosen for them by parents or coaches at a very young age. Often, those who end up at the top know very little else and, as a result, struggle hard when it is time to retire.
That is not to say, however, that that is where Mark Cavendish currently finds himself. He continued, at the media event “If I thought I wanted to go and win six stages at the Tour de France, I’m in fairy-tale land.” He’s keeping his feet on the ground, while pushing on toward his goal of maintaining a spot as a high-level professional as his career winds down. Contrast that with other sportsmen who lack that same realism. In MMA, Daniel Cormier was a highly revered competitor before his retirement last year – former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, UFC Heavyweight Champion and one of only 4 two-division champions in the promotion’s history. The man is a living legend. However, he wanted the fairy-tale ending. He wanted, after winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship from Stipe Miocic, as his final fight, to face pro-wrestling legend and human-gorilla hybrid Brock Lesnar, with the belt on the line, before riding off into the sunset. Instead, he fought, and lost to, Stipe Miocic twice more, almost losing an eye in the process.
Fairy-tale endings are so rare in the world of sports because, by and large, those at the very top simply do not know when to quit. Cavendish appears to be bucking the trend. We at Veloflow wish him all the best for his next, and what could be final, season at the top of the mountain.