TV Review: Netflix's Mark Cavendish documentary is an inspiration

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish, Never Enough, Netflix 

Mark Cavendish may be a cycling great, but like almost all the hyper successful he’s not the easiest of characters to deal with. 

In a 2015 press conference – repeated in this Netflix documentary – Cavendish had an extraordinary interaction with a journalist. 

At the time, the relationship between the media and professional cycling was at an all-time low following the Lance Armstrong doping allegations. 

Nonetheless, Cavendish’s reaction to a question about it was extraordinary.  He fired a question back at the reporter, enquiring if he was “100% certain” that another journalist in the room wasn’t having an affair with his wife.  Although Cavendish said it in a more, well, direct manner. 

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Unpleasant, but not entirely surprising from a winner as focused as Cavendish on letting nothing get in the way of his success. 

By the following year, the ‘Manx Missile’ was within four wins of equaling Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour de France victories. 

And then it began to fall apart, with Cavendish suffering five years of physical and mental ill health, injury and poor form. 

Never Enough reveals the turmoil faced by Cavendish, and by extension his wife Peta, as his view of himself as a serial winner fell to pieces during this period. 

The dark times appeared to start after he was eliminated from the Tour in 2018 after missing the time cut. 

The time cut is a complicated calculation and Cavendish as a heavier sprinter would expect to be off the back of the Peloton, but he has always been expert in managing his output to arrive at the finish just inside the time cut. 

This time he couldn’t.  He was empty, couldn’t make the line in time and was eliminated from the race, meaning he wouldn’t be around to contest the flatter sprinting stages, in particular the final day on the Champs Elysees. 

Cavendish went to a dark place and is brave enough to talk us through it in Never Enough.  His wife admits that she feared she wouldn’t be able to take any more and would have to walk away. 

Mark with wife Peta and new baby
Mark with wife Peta and new baby Mark with wife Peta and new baby

He suffered through the fatigue inducing Epstein-Barr virus (which went undiagnosed for a long time) an eating disorder and was diagnosed as clinically depressed. 

But like the great champion he is, Cavendish found a way back. 

His return to the 2021 tour was partially because of his improving form, but also because of a hunch and emotional decision by legendary team principal Patrick Lefevere. 

Lefevere admits that Cavendish was paid very little for his appearance in that tour, but you suspect that he didn’t care. 

In one of the great sporting comebacks, Cavendish won four stages and drew level with the great Merckx. 

That was a big deal in this part of the world, but the excitement in the cycling loving nations of mainland Europe (France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands) was on a different level. 

Surprisingly, he was overlooked for the 2022 tour, but found a way back with a Kazakhstan team contract this year. 

In dramatic scenes, Cavendish was within a few wheel-widths of breaking the record only to miss a gear and then the following day crash out of the race. 

Notionally, the 38-year-old is retired but Astana have let it be known that a place is available for him on the ‘24 tour. 

It’s an inspiring sporting comeback story, excellently and sensitively explained by Netflix with informed commentators and honest, albeit troubling, words from the man himself. 

You can but only hope Cav can find a way to come back next year and get the record he deseveres.  The sporting world will celebrate.