Mark Cavendish was the star attraction at a sell out Revolution 34; the last Revolution before the festive season saw the Manxman give 4000 cycling fans the perfect early Christmas present. We followed Cavendish on and off track all night and, as always, the man in the rainbow bands proved a tough wheel to follow.
We arrived at 4.30 and already the velodrome was packed out with fans, press and riders. The cold evening air was charged, the atmosphere made all more exciting by the roars of the crowd across the road as Manchester City entertained Newcastle Utd. Inside the velodrome the atmosphere was premier league too. Cavendish had already arrived and disappeared just as quickly. Whispers flew around the building as to the whereabouts of the road world champion, back gracing the boards after a two year hiatus.
With an hour to go before racing commenced, riders began warming up on the boards and reporters, photographers and cameramen began to huddle close to the Howies team pen, where Cavendish would be berthed for the evening. Then a diminutive figure in rainbow bands appeared from the stairwell and made his way to the pen, sporting a new slicked down, side parted hairdo and Movember ‘tache. Mark Cavendish had arrived and immediately the press began to descend.
Despite becoming a household name due to his exploits on the blacktop, Cavendish cut his racing teeth on the boards, twice a world Madison champion (2005 and 2008) and a veteran of ten Revolutions. As the night progressed it was clear we were witnessing the return of the king, 4000 pairs of eyes and hundreds of camera lens trained on the man dubbed ‘The Manx Missile’, who received a standing ovation from the crowd as his Howies team took a bow before racing commenced.
Before the racing began we spoke to Cav’s 2005 World Madison title winning partner and close friend Rob Hayles, who celebrated his retirement at Revolution 34. We asked Rob about life after retirement, his illustrious career and his Madison partner, who Hayles described as “one of the biggest sporting stars that GB have had.” “He is one of the best – we know that” Hayles added before going on to talk about the privilege of commentating on Cav’s title win in Copenhagen, which Hayles described as “the best thing he’s ever commentated on and probably ever will.”
It was in the Motor Paced Scratch that the world champ first showed that X factor, lighting up the boards with his new teammates Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas and Alex Dowsett, before Steven Burke, riding for UK Youth, stole victory in the final lap. The race’s final denouement gave a tantalising preview of what the 2012 Sky lead-out train might look like, with Kennaugh wringing the neck of the peloton, behind him Thomas and Dowsett punching a hole in the air for Cavendish.
Above: Cavendish works on his shoe and shares a joke in the Howies pen.
Cavendish and the elite endurance riders left the track and were replaced by the Future Stars boys who provided some drama of their own in the Scratch; two crashes, one involving series leader Ryan Whatmough and a long lone break from Maxgear’s Chris Lawless, before the latter rider’s teammate Jake Ragen sealed victory. Meanwhile it was no respite for Cavendish who was relentlessly pursued by press from the moment he left the track. Our reporter was jostled in the pack of chasing journalists and hung back, biding his time. Still time to catch Cav.
While Mark went under the lights of ITV4 (who show highlights of the event on Monday 21 November at 7pm) the Sprint Omnium got underway with the 200m time trial, won by Dave Daniell, who went on to win the sprint proceedings, hotly challenged by the imposing figure of Matt Crampton, who bested Daniell in the Sprint and the Keirin.
As Cavendish took a breather from the limelight another dominant sprinter showed their mettle in the first race of the evening for the Future Stars girls; Cunga Bikes’ Emily Kay once again showing her savvy and sprinting speed to win the points race. Kay would go on to win the remaining two Future Stars girls events – the devil and the scratch to make it six back to back wins, like Cav, all based on an ability to judge a race to perfection in the final 500 metres and deliver a killer sprint when it counts.
Above: Rob Hayles receives the 'Wheels of Honour' treatment upon his retirement from racing.
The Madison 1km TT was next and as Cavendish mingled with the VIPs in hospitality, his endurance colleagues slugged it out in the opening four heats, with the rapid duo of Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant setting a scorching 55.351 for the 1km, good enough for eventual victory. However, as Cav looked on from VIP, champagne flutes quivered as Rouleur’s Sam Harrison and Joe Kelly touched wheels in the hand sling, both falling heavily and retiring from the competition.
As Cavendish autographed race programmes and rainbow jerseys, Oliver Wood put his name to the winner’s roll of honour in the Future Stars Devil race, surviving the elimination to contest the final sprint and improve his position in the overall standings after a strong showing in Revolution 33. Wood won again, victorious in the points later in the night but it would be consistent scorer Jake Ragen, third overall after Revolution 33, who would pull on the yellow DHL jersey at the end of the night.
Above: The B of the bang. Another race gets underway.
Soon after the boys eliminator it was the turn of the Elites to take on the devil, this time as a team competition, won by Rapha Condor Sharp. The Team Elimination showed that even world champions can drop the ball, with a red faced Cavendish trailing the field in the final elimination forcing his Howies team out of contention in the final sprint. His blushes however were nothing compared to Sky’s Peter Kennaugh, lambasted ‘panto style’ by teammates Thomas and Dowsett after forcing their retirement on the first elimination. Kennaugh silenced his critics later on by scorching the entire field in the Australian Pursuit.
Cavendish returned to the Howies pit and as the Manxman posed for a photo with his Howies team mate, Future Star Zac May, our reporter saw a gap in the journalistic scrum and went for it, finally pinning down Cavendish after a 90 minute waiting game. “It’s good to be back, the reception I’ve had is amazing” said Cavendish as he cooled down after a blistering devil race. “It’s packed here again tonight and it really is special here at Revolution, especially as the audience appreciate what you’re doing.” Despite Cavendish’s topping the bill at Revolution, due in no small part to his annus mirabilis of 2011, the Manxman was far from comfortable resting on his laurels; “It’s like job done but I can’t just sit on what I’ve done. I’ve got to set new targets next year.”
Above: 'Lone wolf' Alex Dowsett in the scratch race.
As if to underline his determination to build on an incredible 2011, Cavendish went on to wrap up the racing in style, with a truly hair-raising win in the Scratch race. Looking relaxed on the rail at the start, Cavendish signed a pair of GB mitts for an opportunistic fan before getting down to business in the race, which immediately flared white hot when Mark’s new teammate Alex Dowsett did what is fast becoming his trademark – disappearing alone off the front of a strung out peloton. Dowsett was pulled back and a six man break went clear which in turn was eventually pulled back. Then as if to emphasise the sheer firepower in Cavendish’s 2012 team, Sky’s Thomas caught the field napping and disappeared, to be joined by the lethally quick Kennaugh. The Sky duo toyed with the peloton for a few laps before dropping back in. Dowsett then went again, the Sky riders playing with the field like a kitten with a ball of wool.
Above: Geraint Thomas heads a breakaway group of six in the Scratch.
Fed up of the game, Rapha Condor Sharp’s Ed Clancy hit the field hard with six laps to go and the race got serious. No-one was going to give the rangy Yorkshireman any breathing space, with Thomas quickly reeling him back. All the while, Cavendish was watching and waiting in fifth wheel. As has been proved so many times this year, come the moment day, come the (Manx)man. Thomas and Kennaugh were at the front charging hard. Behind, Cavendish’s teammate was slipstreaming the Sky train with Cav tucked in on his wheel. With the crowd on their feet and screaming, the Howies leadout man dropped away and Cavendish hit the front with almost two laps to complete into solid air. For the first time in the night, the crowd were treated to a glimpse of what makes Mark Cavendish special, that ability to wait and wait, then unleash that devastating sprint to secure victory. The crowd had their winner, a lucky few had grabbed a picture, an autograph or a few words with the charismatic man in the rainbow bands.
The racing drew to a close and commentator Hugh Porter urged the crowd to vote Cav for Sports Personality of the Year in December. As 4000 cycling fans filed out we spoke to one very satisfied young Revolution customer and asked him why Cavendish should win SPOTY. He looked back as if we’d asked a silly question and said, “Because he’s really, really fast”.
Winners | Full Results
Motor Paced Scratch Race - Steven Burke Team UK Youth
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race – Boys – Jake Ragen Maxgear Racing
Revolution Sprint Omnium – 200m TT – Dave Daniell
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Girls – Emily Kay Cunga Bikes
1km Madison Time Trial - Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant Rapha Condor Sharp
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Boys – Oliver Wood
Revolution Sprint Round 1 – Heat 1 – Matt Crampton Heat 2 Dave Daniell
Team Elimination – Rapha Condor Sharp (Andy Tennant)
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race – Girls – Emily Kay
Revolution Sprint Round 2 – Heat 1 Matt Crampton Heat 2 Dave Daniell
Australian Pursuit – Peter Kennaugh Team Sky
Revolution Sprint Round 3 – Heat 1 MC Heat 2 Callum Skinner
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Boys – Oliver Wood
Cycling Weekly Keirin – Matt Crampton
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Girls – Emily Kay
Scratch Race – Mark Cavendish
Revolution Sprint – 4 station 500m TT – Dave Daniell (who wins Omnium with 9pts)
Overall Points Leaders after two rounds
Team Leaders – Team UK Youth
Future Stars Girls – Emily Kay
Future Stars Boys – Jake Ragen