A successful young rider, on both road and track, Cavendish emerged through the British Cycling system and turned professional in 2005 with Team Sparkasse, a feeder squad for the T-Mobile Team.
By 2005, the 20-year-old had also won the UEC Under-23 European Track Championship points race, won the first of three Madison titles at the UCI World Track Cycling Championships - others would follow in 2008 and 2016 - and secured podium finishes in the Madison and team pursuit at a number of UCI Track Cycling World Cup meetings.
But it would be the road that would see Cavendish write his name in the cycling history books with his first notable international performances coming when he won two stages at the Tour of Berlin and the points classification at the Tour of Britain in 2006.
In 2007, riding for T-Mobile, he won the prestigious Scheldeprijs race in Belgium, the first of 11 stage victories he would record in his debut season, equalling the record held by Alessandro Petacchi.
His form also earned him selection to his first Tour de France, although early crashes forced him to abandon on stage eight.
Grand Tour wins
Cavendish did not have to wait long before beginning his Grand Tour success, however. In 2008, he followed two victories at the Giro d’Italia by winning four times at the Tour de France, the first of his 30 victories to date coming on stage five in Chateauroux.
Although disappointed to miss out on an Olympic medal, having partnered Bradley Wiggins in the Madison in Beijing, the remainder of 2008 brought the Manxman a further 11 race wins, form he carried into a remarkable 2009, which started with two stage wins at the Tour of Qatar, two in the Tour of California and a further one at Tirreno-Adriatico.
In March, he recorded one of his greatest achievements to date, beating Heinrich Haussler in a thrilling finale to Milan-San Remo, one of the five monuments of cycling.
A shortened Giro d’Italia saw Cavendish wear the leader’s pink jersey and win three stages before an astonishing Tour de France campaign saw him win six stages, setting a new record for a British rider in the process, and at the Tour of Missouri in September, he recorded his 50th professional road win, at the age of 24.
Dental problems and injuries hampered Cavendish at the start of 2010 although he hit mid-season form with five more Tour de France stage victories and three at the Vuelta a Espana, a race which saw him briefly wear the leader’s jersey and win the points classificiation.
The 2011 season would take Cavendish’s success story onto a new level as he won five stages at the Tour de France - taking his career tally to 20 - and won the green points jersey, the first time a Briton had done so.
Britain’s World Champion
But the highlight of his year, if not career so far, came in Copenhagen in September when a superb effort from the Great Britain team helped him win a thrilling sprint and the UCI Road World Championships, the first time a British rider had won the title since Tommy Simpson in 1965.
For 2012, Cavendish moved to Team Sky as the British team attempted to win the Tour de France with Wiggins. Cavendish performed important domestique roles and still had time to win three stages, including the final stage on the Champs-Elysee in Paris for a record fourth consecutive year. Those 23 career victories made Cavendish the most successful Tour sprinter of all time and prompted influential French newspaper L’Equipe to name him the Tour de France’s best ever sprinter.
Cavendish and Great Britain suffered rare disappointment in the Olympic Games road race but, having signed a three-year contract with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, 2013 would bring further victories with four stage victories, and the overall win, at the Tour of Qatar, five stages and the points classification at the Giro d’Italia, two stages at the Tour de France and his first and, so far only, British National Road Race Championships title.
The 2014 season brought “only” 11 race victories for Cavendish who was disappointed when he crashed on the opening stage of the Tour de France in Yorkshire and separated his shoulder, ending his race and a run of six years with at least one stage victory in the event but 2015 brought early successes, including two stages and the overall win at the Dubai Tour, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, three stages at the Tour of Turkey and four at the Tour of California.
Cavendish also returned to winning ways at the Tour de France, on stage seven, and by the end of the year he had returned to the track, riding the Madison with Wiggins at a Revolution series event at Derby, with an eye on competing on the track in the omnium at Rio 2016.
Signed to Team Dimension Data for 2016, Cavendish opened the year with stage race wins on three continents, in Qatar, Croatia and California, before his selection for the Olympics was confirmed and he celebrated with a stunning opening week at the Tour de France. Victory on the opening stage at Utah Beach also placed Cavendish in the yellow jersey for the first time, meaning he had worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours.
The British favourite would go on to win stage three, in a photo finish against old rival Andrei Greipel, in Angers and stage six in a bunch sprint at Montauban, meaning Cavendish had won half the 2016 Tour stages to that point. Despite the looming Olympic Games, Cavendish was not finished there however and took a fourth, and final, 2016 Tour win on stage 14 before retiring from the race to concentrate on Rio.
Away from the bike
Born in Douglas, the Isle of Man, Cavendish began racing bikes in BMX at an early age at the National Sports Centre in his hometown.
His riding style - and speed - have earned him one of the sport’s most famous nicknames, The Manx Missile, and his hobbies away from cycling include motor sports, particularly Motor GP.
Among the many honours he has been awarded, in 2011 Cavendish won the Most Inspirational Sportsman of the Year Award at the Jaguar Academy of Sport Annual Awards in London and was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in science by the University of Chester.
Married to Peta, Cavendish has two children and now divides his time between the Isle of Man, Essex and Italy.
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, London (UK)||Madison||Gold|
|Olympic Games, Rio de Janiero (Brazil)||Omnium||Silver|
|UCI Road World Championships, Doha (Qatar)||Men's race||Silver|
|Giro d'Italia||Points jersey||1st|
|UCI Road World Championships, Copenhagen (Denmark)||Men's race||1st|
|Tour de France||Points jersey||1st|
|Vuelta a Espana||Points jersey||1st|
|Milan San Remo||Overall||1st|
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Manchester (UK)||Madison||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Beijing (China)||Madison||Silver|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Sydney (Australia)||Madison||Bronze|
|Commonwealth Games, Melbourne (Australia)||Scratch Race (for Isle of Man)||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Los Angeles (USA)||Madison||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Manchester (UK)||Team pursuit||Silver|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Manchester (UK)||Madison||Bronze|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Sydney (Australia)||Team pursuit||Silver|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Sydney (Australia)||Madison||Bronze|
|UEC European Track Championships, (Italy)||Points race||Gold|