Mark Cavendish knighted in King’s Birthday Honours

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish has been knighted in the King’s Birthday Honours. The 39-year-old cyclist, known as the Manx Missile, has won 164 professional races, including 34 Tour de France stages. This ties him with Eddy Merckx for the most stage wins in the race’s history.

Dot Tilbury, Cavendish’s first coach at the Isle of Man National Sports Centre, remembered his early determination. “I used to say to him before a race: ‘How you’re feeling today?’ And he just looked at me and said: ‘I’m going to win.’ And usually did,” she told the Guardian.

Cavendish’s passion for cycling showed early on. Starting with a BMX, he convinced his mother to buy him a mountain bike for Christmas at age 13, promising he would win races with it. He was so confident that during his GCSE discussions, he declared he would become a professional racer.

Tilbury shared a story from the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne when she told Prince Charles and Camilla about Cavendish. “I told King Charles and Camilla that we were very proud because we had someone from the Isle of Man competing, Mark Cavendish, and he should look out for him,” she said. Nearly 20 years later, Cavendish is to be knighted by the same monarch.

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish

Cavendish’s career has had its ups and downs. Despite injuries and crashes, he has always come back strong. Tilbury said, “I always tell people, don’t write him off in the Tour de France because he would never come back if he didn’t think he could win another stage.”

His knighthood recognises his sporting achievements, charity work, and role as an ambassador for the Isle of Man and the UK. Alfred Cannan MHK, Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, said, “Sir Mark is a phenomenal athlete, role model and ambassador for both his sport and the Isle of Man. He has performed at the highest level for more than a decade and his ‘never say die’ attitude is truly an inspiration for us all.”

Cavendish has succeeded beyond the Tour de France. He won Milan-San Remo in 2009 and was the road World Champion in 2011. His return to form in 2021, winning four stages of the Tour after years of battling illness and depression, was a remarkable comeback.

Chris Boardman, another British cyclist, was awarded a CBE in the same honours list. Boardman, who won an individual pursuit gold medal at the 1992 Olympics, is now the chair of Sport England.

As Cavendish aims for a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage win, the Isle of Man celebrates its local hero. Tilbury reflected on the community’s pride: “We are a very close community. Whenever he races in the Tour de France I get little old ladies who never used to follow cycling coming up to me in Marks & Spencer to say: ‘I see he won again the other day.’ We are all bursting with pride.”

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