Book Reviews

At Speed by Mark Cavendish

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List Price: £4.99

 

Kindle Edition: 324 Pages.

Published: 07 November 2013 by Ebury Digital

ISBN:

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Mark Cavendish is the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France's green jersey, the first to wear the iconic rainbow jersey in almost 50 years and our only ever rider to capture the Giro d'Italia points title. He is the most prolific sprinter in the Tour's history, and - according to L'Equipe - the best sprinter of all time. But smashing records and racking up victories means whole new levels of fame: and this has come at a price.

Living in the goldfish bowl, he has come under fire for his bombastic riding style and been portrayed as everything from an outlaw to a psychopath. Joining Sky in 2012, Cav soon found his own sprint interests to be incompatible with the team's other goals, while the expectations of a nation made his London Olympic failure hard to take.

In At Speed Cav takes you through the highs and lows of it all in intimate detail. This is a take-no-prisoners account of life at the pinnacle of his sport, and learning how to survive in the fast lane, both on and off the bike.

Reviews

4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

This is what it is like to be the best

Mark Cavendish is an exceptional sportsman. He is probably the best sprinter that cycling has ever had and certainly the most successful British cyclist in his disciplines - although the definition of British when describing a Manx rider has its own issues. I have watched him ride in many stages of the Tour de France and I have been overwhelmed by his talent and will to succeed and winced regularly as he gave controversial interviews under the influence of too much adrenalin. To be the sprinter he is and to compete at the top level at a dangerous activity means that he has to have an iron will and a sense of his own invincibility which means that, despite the fact that he is always scrupulous in acknowledging the role of his team, he appears arrogant and selfish. If you have that impression of Cav then this book is not going to change your mind but it certainly gives an interesting insight into his life at the top.

This autobiography concentrates on only a few seasons - when Cav won the green jersey at the Tour de France, when he joined Sky and was part of Bradley Wiggans' win, and when he left Sky. It talks about his successes in other races including the Giro and his "failure" at the 2012 Olympics. The information provided is easy enough for an amateur fan such as myself to understand and there are some fascinating details of what things looked like from his point of view.

What comes out from this book first and foremost is that Cav loves to cycle and he especially loves to win. He knows that he has an exceptional talent and he is deeply frustrated when it fails or he doesn't get a chance to use it - he lashes out over and over again at those who prevent him from winning or never give him the chance. He has very strong views about other cyclists and individuals in the sport and he isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks. He is pretty sure that he is never to blame for anything that has gone wrong and he always convinced that if things were different that he might have won.

I enjoyed this book. There were no revelations to me about Cav's character and way of operating but I found that I respected him a lot. He has a unique talent and is determined to succeed at almost whatever cost to himself (and often others). The parts of the book about his illnesses and injuries as well as a few sections about his distance from his family show this. I certainly don't always see events as Cav describes them here but this is his story and, as usual, he is brutally honest about what he thinks and how he sees things. The only exception, for me, was the section about the drug issue in cycling. I suspect that he may have been persuaded to include this because he's obviously not interested in discussing it and seems to wish that the controversy would go away.

This is an interesting book about life at the top as a sprinter and also Cav's view of the world. I found it amusing in places and the whole book was captivating reading. I felt, on occasion, that I understood what it costs to succeed. I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

 
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