Cycling phenomenon Mark Cavendish has had more than a few ups and downs with his public reputation during his cycling career, and At Speed covers the most recent years of his career (up until the end of 2013) in a way that doesn’t gloss over his faults – indeed he often makes fun of his own fallibility – yet also presents him as a decent person underneath it all who remembers the contributions teammates and support staff make to his moment of glory over the finishing line.
Cavendish does a pretty good job of explaining how professional road racing works – the role of lead out men, the reason echelons can be so deadly in a race with strong cross-winds, and so on. Therefore you don’t have to be cycling expert by any means to enjoy his account of being one of the country’s most successful sportsmen.
Having been such a close cycling colleague of both Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish inevitably strays into the rights and wrongs of Froome’s behaviour during Wiggins’s Tour de France win. Although generally sympathetic to Froome, what comes out most clearly from Cavendish’s account of the tensions is how both of them (and indeed he himself) have to be hugely focused on their own personal career in order to achieve their greatness. So while all three can all be nice, friendly people at times and get along, when the tension mounts so does the fractiousness – and when it comes to the crunch they all put themselves first.
The audio version of the book is brilliantly narrated by Matthew Delamere who, judging by Mark Cavendish’s TV interviews, has his attitude towards life and general demeanour spot on.
If you like this, you might also be interested in The Climb by Chris Froome and David Walsh.