Mark Cavendish: The second coming of a once-in-a-generation talent

Over the past 18 months the effects of the various lockdowns on people’s lives have ranged from irritating boredom to harrowing loss. It has been a time bereft of uplift as lives suffered disruption, careers stalled and normality was lost.

It’s very tough to see how anything professing to be even remotely spirited could emerge from the pandemic, particularly when you compare it to the devastating turmoil many have suffered.

Yet here is a man in Mark Cavendish who represents a beacon of hope. A man who two weeks into the first UK lockdown admitted he had been diagnosed with clinical depression back in August 2018.

It was a mental health struggle which had grabbed hold of him during his battle with the Epstein-Barr virus – more commonly referred to as glandular fever – an ordeal which left him physically and mentally on the brink.

But since those early, naive days of spring 2020, the Isle of Man’s cycling hero has begun the long journey back to this romantic climax at the Tour de France.

It is a second coming that even the The Stone Roses couldn’t have foreseen. Even towards the end of 2020, Cavendish hinted at retirement as the struggles a year like no other had brought appeared to have taken its toll.

Just eight months later, the greatest sprinter the Tour de France has ever seen was lifting his hands aloft once more for stage win number 31, nearly five years after his last victory at cycling’s flagship event.

After the last years, it’s just nice to have some good luck,” Cavendish said in his post-race interview after winning stage four from Redon to Fougeres.

If it was sheer luck that took the Manx Missile to No 31 then he received a sentimental second dose 48 hours later when he took his 32nd stage in Chateauroux, the same city he won his very first, 13 years and 4,741 days earlier.

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