Mark Cavendish has been a wonderful World Road Champion but all good things must come to an end... With that, I have removed the rainbow avatar from Twitter and replaced it with a road that is close to his heart... Here is the "full size" version from a trip to Paris in late 2011.
Mark Cavendish, in his last appearance in the rainbow jersey, won three of the eight stages at the Tour of Britain 2012, spending one day in the Leader's gold jersey, before falling down the general classification towards the end of the Tour and the lumpier stages through Wales and the South West.
Stage 3 - finishing in Dumfries
Mark may have won 5 of the stages - he crashed just prior to the final sprint on stage 1 in Norfolk, whilst he lost out on stage 2 to Leigh Howard in Knowsley Safari Park - Mark reacted by then taking stages 3 and 4 and the final stage in Guildford, with fellow Brit, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke taking the overall for a "home" team, Endura Racing, against the big Pro Tour teams who took part in this event.
Stage 4 in Blackpool and wearing Leader's Gold Jersey
Bradley Wiggins also took part in the event, before abandoning, unwell, after stage 5 - this being a homecoming for Team Sky and british cycling in general following the summer of sporting success.
Classic Cav celebration - final stage in Guildford
Whether this remains Mark's last official appearance in Sky colours remains to be seen, Twitter whispers suggest that he will be signing for the belgian Omega Pharma Quickstep team. Watch this space.
Well, a lot has been said about the Olympic road race yesterday, things did not go to plan, unfortunately for Team GB, there was no Plan B... Ultimately a 38 year old former drug cheat won the gold medal, and Mark Cavendish trailed home in 28th place.
Team GB seemed to concentrate on the science (aero bikes, helmets, skinsuits etc), but the team was limited in being able to improvise on the day. Ultimately, the limiting factor was Mark Cavendish's speed on the 9 ascents of Box Hill, this meant that Team GB was unable to chase any attacks. A breakaway of 30 riders (i.e. a peloton in its own right), was too powerful for Team GB to reel in on the way back to London, and, additionally, Team GB's cause was hindered by the reticence of other teams to help set the pace at the front.
Mark Cavendish seemed dejected when interviewed by the BBC afterwards, and the failure to "medal" was the headline on the BBC evening news. Perhaps, there was too much hype and expectation, after all, a 251K road race is inevitably difficult to control, but the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Tour de France (Team Sky) seemed to suggest that Team GB could deliver Mark for a sprint finish on The Mall.
Mark praised his teammates after the event, but I wonder whether Cav is going to fall into the category of great athletes not to win an Olympic medal. He will be 31 by the time of the Rio olympics, and much will depend on the route, conditions and, just as importantly, his form.
It is not a case of comparing like with like, the 100M will be the same all around the world, barring altitude and weather conditions on the day, whereas a single day road race will have so many other variables in the mix, i.e. it can be a bit of a lottery - unfortunately Team GB did not have a winning ticket.
Well, what a day for british cycling, can things get any better than this. Another stage victory, a british 1-2 and a british team winning the Tour de France, in simple terms, the british have dominated this year's Tour - 7 out of 20 stages were won by british riders!
There was no relaxation for Bradley Wiggins who helped deliver Mark Cavendish to the finish line - Cav dominated the sprint yet again to take his third stage victory, No. 23 overall, and fourth in a row on the Champs Elysees. On any other year, Cav would be the headline maker!
This is the first time that road cycling has hit the front pages of all the newspapers, the first story on the TV news bulletins and has been the main talking point on the speech radio stations (BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSport).
Mark Cavendish finished the 53.5km time trial in 82nd place, some 6:58 on stage winner and TDF winner elect, Bradley Wiggins.
To think that a british team, with 2 british riders could finish 1-2 in the Tour would have been considered somewhat ambitious three years ago when Dave Brailsford announced the formation of Team Sky, to take on the best of the pro teams, yet, here we are in mid July 2012, with this proposition a reality, barring any last minute mishaps. Brailsford's aim was to win the Tour within 5 years and he has exceeded expectations...
So, where does that leave Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and british cycling?
Bradley Wiggins is 32 so will have at least a couple more decent Tour efforts in him... However, Chris Froome, the younger rider at 27, looked a stronger rider than Wiggo in the mountains, albeit Wiggo is the stronger time trialist. It will be interesting to see how Team Sky can manage these two riders, will Froome need to leave the team to fulfil his ambition or will he wait until he becomes the dominant rider on the team?
Mark Cavendish has scored two stage wins this year and is favourite for a third stage win (and fourth in a row) on the Champs Elysees. This is an unusual year in that the Olympic road race is next Saturday and Cav is a clear favourite for that event, and hence has been held back somewhat in the Tour. However, Cavendish has not been the centre of attention at Team Sky, like he was at Highroad (HTC, Columbia etc...) and will never be at the Tour de France whilst Team Sky concentrate on the yellow jersey. Will he want to stay at Team Sky long term? Team Sky offers that seamless integration with the Great Britain road team (be this the Olympics or the World Championships), that, perhaps, a rival continental team wouldn't... However, a Highroad type team with Mark as team leader, will maximise opportunities for stage wins...
As for british cycling in terms of the organisation and in a wider perspective, as a member of BC myself, I can see membership increasing dramatically, the number of "Sky rides" increasing and the number of sportives increasing around the country. More importantly, the use of a bicycle as a form of transport may be taken more seriously and less associated with poverty - i.e. a lifestyle choice rather than economic necessity. Cycling is a cheap hobby and is a great form of exercise, of course, it can be an expensive hobby if you want it to be....
We stand on the precipice of history - the first british winner of the Tour!