The thing about professional cycling is the bandwagon reporting. If you see one story, you have pretty much seen them all. If Egan Bernal is on fire, everyone writes that he is on fire. If Nacer Bouhanni angers other cyclists, the news covers him in a negative light and call for his head. If Geraint Thomas gains five pounds after winning the Tour, all report that he is disrespectful. Honesty in reporting is crucial, from world news events to sports. Slanted stories and feel-good write ups have become the norm. Of course, with the amount of global cycling coverage in all of the different platforms, one would think that one of them would not be afraid of being blackballed by teams or cold-shouldered by riders. Being honest is not being cruel.
With the Internet blowing up that Mark Cavendish won a race, I am perplexed. Why is this a big story? Because he was sick? Because he is past his prime? Because people said he should have retired? What is the story? First of all, the Tour of Turkey’s field is WEAK. Out of the twenty-five teams, three or maybe four are what is considered World Tour Pro teams. Of those World Tour teams, they are the B teams. Sure, Cavendish can show up at sub-tier race and win. For Pete’s sake he is sprinting Jasper Philipsen and André Greipel for the win. Now if Kent Ross beat Greipel for the win, that is a story. Who? Exactly. By the way, he is a sprinter on Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling.
Let us put this in the perspective of another sport. Take MLB Hall of Fame Frank Thomas at 52 years old and put him on a professional Single A team in Arizona. Would the media be jumping up and down if “The Big Hurt” crushed a 400 foot homerun off of a twenty year old pitcher who is fresh from rookie ball and signed straight out of high school? Nope. Why? Because in his day, Frank Thomas was one of the most feared hitters in Major League Baseball. Against inexperienced or subpar players, he could probably still intimidate and dominate, but on the other hand, if you take Frank Thomas and put him against Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander, he would quickly be embarrassed.
Yes, Mark Cavendish has an incredible portfolio: 147th career wins, 30 Tour de France stages, a monument and a rainbow jersey. He had his day. He will be remembered as one of the best, but he will not return against the top World Tour teams with sprinters the likes of Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan, Arnaud Démare, Wout van Aert, Pascal Ackermann, and the others. I never like to see an incredibly gifted athlete not be able to accept the sunset, like Michael Jordan. While the NBA Hall of Fame legend had his flashes of greatness with the Wizards, the franchise never made the playoffs during his two seasons, and he averaged a career-low 20 points a game during his final year in the league. It was hard to watch.