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At Speed: My life in the fast lane By Mark Cavendish

Release date: 07th November, 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £9.99
You Save: £10.01 (50%)
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Thanks to the kindness of a couple from Somerset, your reviewer had the privilege of watching the breathtaking finale to stage ten of this year’s Tour de France from an impossibly perfect vantage point.

It’s a long story, but on the most beautifully sunny day, I found myself watching the action from an hotel balcony some 80 feet above St Malo’s magnificent promenade overlooking Brittany’s Emerald Coast, less than 200 metres from the finish line. We could clearly see the peleton as it snaked through the ‘flame rouge’ one kilometre from home while following the action on a large screen TV set back from the hotel balcony.

“Cav’s going to win this,” suggested one of our small party and though we couldn’t establish precisely where Mark Cavendish was in the bunch, the observation made perfect sense. After all, the conditions were ideal for him and he was clearly ‘in the mix’. All he needed was a timely lead-out and BOOM, he would surely power his way to another explosive sprint finish victory.

However, as the peleton leaders motored towards the line at close to 50mph, so Cav was balked by Tom Veelers, the Dutch lead-out man for Marcel Kittel who was dropping back, just as the ‘Manx Missile’ attempted to launch his perfectly-timed challenge. The pair collided directly above our balcony; the crowd gasped; Veelers went sprawling across the tarmac, but Cav was distracted, his intense focus momentarily lost - it was enough to cost him the race. He finished third. Kittel won.

This episode tells us much about Mark Cavendish and his will to win. A teenage world track champion in 2005, Commonwealth Games gold medallist a year later and world champion (with Bradley Wiggins) in 2008, his move to road racing has resulted in him becoming the most prolific and exciting sprinter in Tour de France history.

At Speed is described as a “take-no-prisoners” account of his life, which is accurate enough, but it comes only three years since Boy Racer, his equally revealing portrayal of life behind the scenes of Le Tour.

Nevertheless, anyone watching Cavendish in St Malo earlier this year will appreciate that he never takes any prisoners, a characteristic evident throughout At Speed, an excellent book which crackles with attitude.

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