Mark Cavendish, who is the subject of a Netflix documentary that airs next week, has said that he hopes the programme will raise awareness of mental health issues and has revealed that doctors were worried that he would self-harm after he was diagnosed with depression.
The 37-year-old, who broke his collarbone in a crash at the Tour de France earlier this month, denying him the chance to clinch the 35th victory that would see him move ahead of Eddy Merckx as the winner of most stages at the race, speaks in the film about his own struggles.
The Astana-Qazaqstan rider was diagnosed as being clinically depressed in August 2018 as he struggled to recover from a debilitating virus that was not immediately identified by his then team’s doctors, leading to what at the time appeared to be an inexplicable loss of form.
He had been diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever, in April 2017 after suffering from what he described as “unexplained fatigue” while training.
Sky Sports reports that he wants the documentary, Mark Cavendish: Never Enough, available on the streaming platform from Tuesday, to help people who a similarly struggling with their mental health, but insists he is not himself looking for sympathy.
“I’m conscious there are people in a lot worse situations than me,” he explained.
“I don't want to sit here saying I feel sorry for myself,” Cavendish said. “I’m privileged to have the life I’ve had. What we want the film to show is that depression can affect anybody in the world, no matter who you are.”
Speaking after a private screening of the film in London earlier this week, he said: “Everyone is human.
“It doesn't matter where you are in life, what your background is or what you do. We're all humans and it's relatable.
“The irony is that you feel so alone if you suffer when in fact everyone is probably there thinking they're alone. If you talk you'd be surprised how much you've got in common.”
Speaking about how he had managed to come to terms with his depression, Cavendish said: “It’s an understanding that there’s a ladder in the middle of that spiral down and you can get on that ladder and climb up.
“It doesn't matter where you’re at. It’s keeping that hope and good people around you.”
The documentary focuses on Cavendish’s return to the Tour de France in 2021, when he won four stages – his first for five years – to draw level with Merckx on 34 victories, as well as clinching the green points jersey for the second time in his career.
On the eve of his last ever Tour de France, we’re excited to announce new documentary MARK CAVENDISH: NEVER ENOUGH.
The film charts the rise, fall and resurrection of a genuine sporting great as he attempts to prove the doubters wrong and make cycling history. Coming 2 August. pic.twitter.com/DmGeqKu3HF
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) June 30, 2023
Cavendish, who won the final stage of May’s Giro d’Italia in Rome shortly after he had announced plans to retire at the end of the season, remains tight-lipped over reports that his team has offered to extend his contract for a further year to allow him another shot at that 35th Tour de France stage win.
He also emphasised the importance to him of family and how his wife Peta and their children had given him during his struggles with his mental health.
“Absolutely you learn what is important, 100 per cent,” Cavendish said, adding that cycling “is my job. Don't get me wrong, I love it. I know I'm incredibly fortunate to do what is my passion for my job but my purpose is to be a husband and a father more than anything else.
“You don’t want situations like what's in the film but you see the positives at the end of the day. I tend to look at a lot more positives in things and understand what’s fundamentally important. It’s actually quite a nice head space to be in,” he added.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo [at] samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.