Mark Cavendish Exclusive: Stage 21 at the Giro d'Italia 2023 (Extract from The Road Book 2023)

Mark Cavendish Exclusive: Stage 21 at the Giro d'Italia 2023 (Extract from The Road Book 2023)

It is the last day of the Giro d’Italia 2024, and as we watch the riders roll through the streets of Rome on their way to that iconic finish in the lee of the Coliseum, we thought we’d look back on last year’s finish. One of the most heartwarming moments in recent history, and top of our highlights of last season, we got the inside track from the man at the centre of it: Mark Cavendish.

Here is an extract from his ‘In the Winners’ Words piece from The Road Book 2023. Just so you know, the whole piece is fantastic:


In May, Mark Cavendish raced the Giro d’Italia for his new team, Astana. It was a brutal edition, raced in awful weather, with few opportunities for the sprinters and a variety of infectious diseases coursing through the peloton. On the second rest day, the day after his 38th birthday, Cavendish announced his intention to retire at the end of the year (a decision that he reversed in October, when he announced that he had re-signed with Astana for one further season). Still winless going into the final week of the Giro, Cavendish had one final chance of maintaining his record of never having left the Giro without a win. Stage 21 finished in Rome…


I don’t even know how many Grand Tours I’ve done now. But I know in the third week of a Grand Tour you start to go catabolic. You can no longer build your form. Your body starts eating itself and it’s just about survival. It’s almost like you have a rev limiter on: you could go all day at that pace, but not above it. I’d decided that I’d go until I started feeling like that, and then I’d stop because any longer would have probably been detrimental to the Tour de France. But it never really came. And that was because I had this wicked group of guys around me. Joe Dombrowski, Luis León Sánchez. Those guys were just there with me when I needed them, so I never had to go deep into the red in the mountains. Gianni Moscon was by my side from kilometre zero in Ortona until the finish line in Rome.

I got to know Gianni at the Giro. He’s quite like myself: he’s got a bad rap, but from people who don’t know the actual person. Gianni’s like me. He’s real. He’s not hiding anything, he’s not going to say what people want him to say. He says it straight, and he’d rather you say it straight to him. That’s the bit that gets lost when you don’t actually know the person. I know that from personal experience. I really like that in him. He turned professional with Sky, and was in the Classics team. They were a group of brothers. They’re a lot of the guys that I grew up with. We grew up learning the values of the bonds you have as a team. Gianni has those values. We go into battle together. Whatever your strengths, weaknesses, ambitions or goals might be, we do it together. Collectively. Win and lose together.

And it wasn’t just Gianni. For instance, Joe Dombrowski had never been in the gruppetto in his life until he spent a few days just with me and Gianni. Just by doing that he learned a whole different race. I mean, I’ve spent half my career out the arse, but those long, long days give you a totally different perspective on cycling. When you’re alone and just trying to make the finish.

The last stage being in Rome gave me that incentive to get through. It gave me a target, a reason for the suffering. I always had that in my mind. Of course, I’d wanted to win throughout and I’d been close a few times. I had that big crash in Salerno, and that knocked me back a little bit. To be fair, at my age I should know better than to kick when I’m on a white line. It’s as simple as that: I went to kick and my back wheel was on a white line and it skipped out. It threw me out. I was lucky that no one else came down there. That stopped my sprint. I wasn’t going to win but I could still get a position, so I tried to carry on with as much momentum as possible, but then I got my front wheel taken. I kept that upright too, but I went into poor Filippo Fiorelli. Chapeau to him for not going down! I had just him against the barriers. I pinged off him, but that was one time too many and I just went whoomph! and just flew across the finish line. A lot of crashes are caused by loose bikes, so I just held onto it, knowing that the smaller I could make my surface area the less carnage there was going to be. I just held onto it for as long as possible. And to be fair, it’s better when it’s wet, because you slide a bit more. I don’t know, I was lucky.

We all got sick. I mean, the whole peloton got sick at some point in the Giro, like really quite sick. Some people got it right at the beginning. I got it in the middle week, and I really, really suffered. But then I kind of got better towards the end. But towards the end of the third week, we saw those guys who’d just been trying to hang on, trying to hang on, trying to hang on… by the last week, they were cooked. And then, of course, your odds of winning are a lot better. We had a plan for Rome: it was all in, obviously…


We all know what happened next, but if you want to read it in the words of the Manx Missile himself, then pick up a copy of The Road Book 2023 on our webstore today! What was your favourite stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia? Let us know over on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.