Desire has a way of informing our senses, giving us taste even before a thing is served. Our longing has a way of making us focus, making each detail of preparation a ceremony.

We wait. We look for opportunity. We wait.

And while any meal can sustain us, true hunger is a craving that cannot be sated by just any snack. It is why second place on a stage does not appear on the podium—there is no substitute for the win, which is like saffron—elusive and expensive.

The theatrics of Mark Cavendish’s victory salutes following his first win in the 2009 Tour de France told us nothing of the satisfaction that comes with a win on the world’s biggest stage. They were calculated to stroke sponsors that support him and his team. There’s nothing wrong with showing your appreciation for a sponsor, but what we expect in a victory salute is a statement. The winner’s salute should be an expression of unbridled emotion—the very antithesis of calculation.

Where does a win fit in the experience of a great rider? For some, it can be a surprise. Others may find the experience a triumph, an exaltation. The finish line may bring relief or it may be the stamp of domination.

Five stages in, Mark Cavendish has taken his first win of the 2010 Tour de France. His expression says that it might as be the first win of the season, if not of his career. In showing us unvarnished emotion Cavendish has made a gift of his win. Sharing with us the monkey-off-his-back relief and the satisfaction of vanquishing not one but two prior stage winners.

We knew how much he wanted this. Watch the victor feast.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. randomactsofcycling

    A win without emotion is always hollow. I think both for the spectator and the victor. I’ll bet Cavendish remembers this one over all six from 2009. Good luck to him. It’s gratifying to know that even the most arrog…..confident of athletes feels the pressure and can display his pleasure in such an unbridled fashion.

  2. Touriste-Routier

    Great piece and well noted observation.

    Contrast this to Cadel’s lackluster reaction to his worlds win (and other victories this year). Now that he has embraced attacking in races, maybe he’ll learn to express some emotion and celebration at the finish line, which might earn him some fans and appreciation.

    Even if you don’t like the rider, an emotional win and victory salute can be endearing and enticing.

  3. Timothy Day

    Another good piece. Cavendish has added a lot to the spectacle of cycling through his arrogance/confidence. Playing the part of the guy we love to hate. Now he’s adding something new to the show, humility and awe in reaching your potential again after a tough spell. Glad to see this side of him. Love watching the tour for exactly this kind of story line.

  4. Robot

    I was very impressed with Cavendish’s post race interviews yesterday and the day before. He seems to understand now how his words are perceived. When you’re winning races, it’s easy to stomach criticism. When you’re not winning, your critics get in your head.

    One thing he said, in particular, stuck out for me. He said, in reference to his past demeanor, “I’m only 25,” which I took as an acknowledgment that he’s still growing and learning to deal with the burdens of being a champion.

    I have, from the beginning, enjoyed his openness and honesty. What has disappointed in the past, has been a disrespect for his rivals. It seems over the past month or two, the peloton has pegged back his ego and helped him see the proper way to win bike races. Time will tell, but I hope we’re seeing the evolution of a great champion.

  5. Souleur

    I agree w/Robot in much what he mentions and I agree w/Touriste-Routier, good notes Padraig.

    I for one have not really particulary liked Cav. His disrespect of rivals and even disrespect for others outside of cycling proved him at the time to be a poor ambassador of ‘his’ sport. He is also quintessentially a sprinter. Sprinters love sprinters. And if your not a sprinter, its just seen as a quick 200m run in after 200k race to that point. They take the line, but that is it. They don’t necessarily climb well and they don’t necessarily TT well. So for me, following Cav is a rather hard thing to do, given he rides only when he feels like a win is likely. There really is nothing inherently wrong in that, others do the same, Cipo…McEwen…and pure sprinters have for years.

    However, like him or not, Cav’s win was deserved. He pulled out a long hard one and did much of it himself, and that is something I admire. His humility was appreciated and as Robot notes, I am hopeful that Zabel is helping him mature a bit because indeed he is a tremendous talent and could be a great ambassador for our sport worldwide.

  6. Shamus

    If you always win, and it comes easily to you, you have awards, but you don’t gain perspective on what you’re accomplishing; without some struggle and losses, you get hollow victories.

    I think the dry spell has given Cavendish a peek at the respect for winning that other competitors have after so many near misses and failed attempts. That perspective is what separates a champion from a winner.

    Hopefully he will hold onto that perspective and we can all celebrate him as a champion and not just a gifted winner.

  7. jza

    I don’t expect unadulterated emotion, I don’t really care what he does. I just hope he doesn’t need to throw a temper tantrum when he loses, and when he wins he does something fun. Crying like a little girl is ridiculous.

    It’s the Tour. 21 stages.

    Act like you’ve been there, act like your gonna be there again soon, thank your team, thank your sponsors, go to your bus, take a shower…..there’s another race tomorrow.

    Now Milan-San Remo…….I wanna see some tears flow.

    Cav might be fast, but he’s got no class.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. While I prefer unadulterated emotion, I can’t ding a guy for being reserved. If Evans isn’t terribly emotive, so be it. What I don’t like is a contrived demonstration. Spare me.

  8. Souleur

    I can say this assuredly. I love John Wayne and men like Clint Eastwood, and as one who is without ‘tearful emotion’ and as one who probably more grumpy than not, if I podiumed a stage at the TdF….I would cry like a baby

    For Cav to ‘find himself’ after all the heat he has taken, I can give him that. But to each their own.

  9. grolby

    Agreed, Padraig. Given Evans’ (admittedly odd) personality, a big display of emotion at the finish would be a joke. I mean, give the guy a break – he was in tears when he won Worlds. I must admit that I do love a good salute, but better for it to be genuine.

  10. wvcycling

    Was it le blaireau that was also quick to bite, and spit his commentary without thought? I wonder if Cav and him have ever had a little sit-down together?

    I will say, it does make the tour a bit more entertaining as compared to the distant, mysterious, and possibly estranged racers that either are uninterested in the fans and press, or are earnestly aversive of their fans… Wasn’t there a rider who put spikes under his jersey to ward off fans patting his back on the climbs?

  11. Alex Torres

    Cavendish is a colorful, complex kid but he´s a big cycling champ. Aren´t they all? I like this diversity, it´s more evident in cycling than in other group sports, except perhaps in soccer and it´s one of the reasons I love cycling for so long. It´s one big broad fauna, the peloton.

    Back to Cav… He may not have that “GC”, Hugo Koblet-kind of class we usually appreciate, but even at the height of his arrogant times (is he past that yet? I´m not sure!!! LOL) I liked him. Much in the way I liked Cippo, and I´m not comparing them just noting.

    I still do, I like when he wins. These 2 must have been special for him.

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