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Mark Cavendish rocks up at Isle of Man road race and finishes 29th

The race's organiser called it a "real joy" to see Cav "showing no airs or graces and just slotting back into his club cycling roots"...

The organiser of a local road race on the Isle of Man, which on Sunday was graced by a touch of stardust when 34-time Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish pinned on a number during a visit home in between races, says he thinks the sprinting legend enjoys "being treated as just one of the locals" and "slotting back into his club cycling roots".

This is the story that Cav popped along to the Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race, pulled some turns and rolled home in 29th position. VeloUK were on hand to provide a race report, former Team Sky and Ineos sprinter Chris Lawless, who in 2019 won the Tour de Yorkshire, taking the victory, Cavendish seemingly content to get some extra training miles in having ridden 20 miles to the start and back home again afterwards.

Mark Cavendish at Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race (Manxmanphotos)

[All images courtesy of Manxmanphotos]

The event's organiser Richard Fletcher told that while this particular appearance has got plenty of attention online, Cavendish "nearly always" rides a race or sportive if there's one on during his visits back to the island of his birth.

"It's a real joy to see Mark and our other top male and female stars, showing no airs or graces and just slotting back into their club cycling roots," he said. "On the flip-side, I hope and think they like being treated as just one of the locals when they come back home and simply enjoy riding their bikes again on old familiar Manx roads."

Mark Cavendish at Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race (Manxmanphotos)

Richard reported it was a great event and experience, for "the youngsters in particular", although we would hazard a guess a fair few of the riders pushing the definition of 'youngsters' were also chuffed to be swapping turns with a former world champion.

"The island is a small place, so all the cycling crowd know each other and for such a small place, there are a lot of talented Continental and WorldTour-level cyclists here," Richard explained, rattling off the names of Ben Swift, Lizzie Holden, Sam Brand, Max Walker, Zac Walker and Matt Bostock, and their respective teams, "plus a pipeline of aspiring juniors".

Mark Cavendish at Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race (Manxmanphotos)
Mark Cavendish at Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race (Manxmanphotos)

"Although they all have individual training programmes, they will often ride together and most do build a local race into their training when that fits for them," the event organiser continued. "The annual Christmas Hamper Handicap road race in particular always has a star-studded field.

"In a good way, the local racing scene has come to treat this as the norm and aside from accepting late entries from this level of rider, there's no special treatment or fuss, although the organisers and other participants do love to have them at an event."

That lack of special treatment Richard speaks of explained why Cavendish was asked to bring his licence and £20 to the start, signing on with the rest of the riders having exchanged last-minute messages to organise his participation.

Mark Cavendish at Nick Corkill Memorial Handicap road race (Manxmanphotos)

Recalling another tale of one of the island's top pros turning up at a local event, Richard explained how Ineos veteran Swift turned up at a local evening 10-mile TT last summer, "paid his day-entry, broke the Isle of Man record and then rode home".

"Similarly, if there is a local event on when Mark is visiting, he nearly always does it. It's not just the local races he does — I organise an annual mass-participation sportive, which is mainly made up of the non-racing fraternity, but one year he just entered via the British Cycling entry system and turned up.

"The weather was awful, but he rode out to it and started after everyone else had left the HQ, along with a couple of the stronger local riders. It meant that he gradually caught all the other participants during the course of the ride, which gave them all a surprise boost and all I could hear at the finish was people talking about where Cav had passed them. It clearly made the day for a lot of people."

Regardless of the likelihood he was just out for a training spin, the pubs and bars of the Isle of Man will forever be hearing tales from the 28 people (perhaps Lawless aside, considering his own palmares) who finished ahead of Mark Cavendish at that road race back in the day...

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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