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4.6 out of 5 stars
Boy Racer
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2009
I have read a large number of sporting books in my time; some very good, many distinctly mediocre. This might just be the best one I have ever read.

Love him or loathe him - and it is difficult to be anywhere in between - Mark Cavendish is to sprinting on two wheels what Usain Bolt is to sprinting on two legs. If road cycling had anywhere near the same profile in the UK as athletics does, more people would be idolising this young man in the same way as the incredible Jamaican athlete.

Cavendish's autobiography weaves the tale of his four stage wins at the 2008 Tour de France with his life story up to and including his win at the 2009 Milan-San Remo classic. Although the book covers only the first two-and-a-bit years of a pro career which still (hopefully) has many successful years to come - and therefore does not include his six stage wins at the 2009 Tour - there is so much packed into the 340-odd pages that it does not feel padded at all.

The book reads in much the same way the man himself conducts himself in interviews: he shoots from the hip with his heart on his sleeve, occasionally inserting foot in mouth. But anyone who has ever seen Cav interviewed would expect no less: in a PC, PR-conscious world, here is a sportsman who is as brutally honest as he is fast. At times it is painfully obvious who he does and does not respect in the cycling world, and yet he is surprisingly self-critical, self-effacing and not afraid to admit when he has been proven wrong about someone. The book is full of little insights into the mindset of a master practitioner and behind-the-scenes revelations of what it is like to be a professional road cyclist, which make this a cut above the average sporting autobiography. Add this to the fleshing out of a person far more complex, meticulous and magnanimous (to his team) than the one-dimensional cocky narcissist sometimes portrayed in the media, and what you have here is a compelling tale that had me tearing through the pages much like the man himself does when he has the sniff of the finish line in his nostrils.

Unputdownable. Having waited a few months before buying this, I will be first in line to buy the next chapter of the story of this incredible young man.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2012
for a boy who is constantly being told to read more books my mum brought this to get me reading because i love cycling and Mark Cavendish is an inspiration to me. I stayed in my room for a hole week of my holidays reading this book over and over and i think this is an brilliant book!! sorry if my English is bad!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2011
Mark Cavendish is the fastest man on two wheels. Born in the Isle of Man in 1985 he discovered as a teenager that although he was a slightly tubby lad with rather short legs and a passion for junk food he had a love of cycling and an amazing passion for winning. This autobiography gives a little background into his younger days. He then rapidly moves the story through his teenage championships to reach the British academy and then finally his move into Prefessional racing.

Mark is a man who always appears to wear his heart on his sleeve and he tends to be very emotional. The Manxman admits that he can be volatile and outspoken but also points out that he is a comparatively young rider to be in the spotlight and he is obviously maturing and behaving in a more appropriate way now. Throughout this book Cavendish talks about his various teammates as well as many riders who are on other teams but whom he has had regular contact. I found this interesting as it was nice to find out what an "insider" had to say about names that I held in high regard or who I particularly disliked in the cycling world. However I must say that I thought his book showed great discretion and often when he mentioned incidents with particular people he would often mention his own inappropriate behaviour with regard to the same incident.

The layout of the book is rather confusing. The introduction gives a brief overview of some races and his interactions with certain characters. Each chapter is then headed as a Stage of the 2008 Tour De France. The chapter then incorporates the details of that days stage; this may be a few lines if it was a mediocre stage to a blow by blow account of most of the race if there were things of significance to Cavendish or his team. As would be expected he was often full of praise for his teammates. Alongside these accounts in each chapter he has also written the story of his cycling career so far. I found this tricky to follow at first. Once I got used to the style it became easier to negotiate the writing and I could follow it a little better.
Like many autobiographies this one contains the obligatory photograph sections. I always enjoy these parts, particularly in a book like this when it is possible to see the amazing change from a cute baby to a 14 year old national Champion through to an insecure tubby professional in his debut photograph to the lean speed machine who cruised comfortably to victory on the Champs-Elysees in the final stage of the 2009 Tour De France.

After finishing his book I am still very much a fan of this boy wonder. I found his accounts very honest and it is a wise person who can see his own faults. He states categorically that he is not the most gifted person who has ever climbed onto a bike. However what really drives him is a true passion for winning, he thinks that it is this passion that makes the difference between him and many of the talented riders out there. This is not a book that is going to be enjoyed by anyone who doesn't have even a passing interest in cycle racing. There is a lot of detail and the mention of a lot of people who are well-known in the cycling world but who are pretty much unknown outside of it. However I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I came to the conclusion that Mark Cavendish is a likeable young man who can be rather outspoken but who has deep respect and regard for his friends and colleagues and the sort of love of racing that was a delight to read about.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2009
I found `Boy Racer' to be an immensely satisfying and intriguing insight into the most talented sports star ever to emerge from the Isle of Man. Interspersed with his recount of his momentous achievements in the 2008 Tour de France and paradoxically calamitous under-achievement in the Beijing Games, is a heartfelt and moving account of his life and driving passions. This book is about a man with an unerring sense of self belief, whose drive and will to win define him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2011
An excellent insight into the teamwork that exists in a racing team. I thought i understood how they work for each other but never quite realised to this extent.

Mark's admiration for George Hincapie just goes to confirm what i had heard about this great man.

I admire Mark's honesty about other people, and also about his own personality, however i just felt he should have written this book in another 5 or 7 years where he could have spoken more about his successful tours.

Don't get me wrong, still a good book, but could be better with age!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This book is one of the most frankly written books on cycling that I have in my collection. Cavendish takes us on a whistle stop tour of his life and career to date. In parts hilarious, in other parts sad, he does not let his famed ego get in the way of the story but tells it as he sees it - to hell with the consequences. It will not make comfortable reading for a few people; but if you want an entertaining read (cyclist or not) then you could do a lot worse than buy this book. His awe inspiring description of the unfolding seconds of his victories is incredibly vivid and puts you right into his zone. The closest I have ever come to visualizing what it is like to win a stage of the TDF came whilst holding this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having an interest in cycling having taken it up a couple of years ago, but knowing nothing about professional racing, I found this book extremely interesting. It is also very well written (not surprisingly ghosted by a professional cycling journalist) and difficult to put it down.

For me the book worked on two levels. First, it deals well with the paradox that appears to be Mark Cavendish himself- breathtaking arrogant at times, contrite at others. He is never afraid to speak his mind judging by this book. He does not appear to be the most likeable person in the world, but this type of arrogance, self belief and mental attitude is probably a large part of what it takes to achieve at these levels in the incredibly hard world of professional cycling, where a 3 hour 80 mile ride is a 'day off'.

At least this book is honest enough to portray what he is like, rather than attempting to paint an airbrushed 'Mr Niceguy' image.

This version of the book which includes an Epilogue of his 2009 Tour De France six stage triumph (an amazing achievement). In the main section of the book he talks about how Lance Armstrong told him to save his money, and he proudly declares that he would never waste money on flash cars like many of the successful pro tourers do. However, in the Epilogue section, in 2009, he declares he is driving around in an Audi R8! Perhaps he earns so much money now that a 90k car (minimum) is no longer considered flash?!Or perhaps someone gave it to him? Either way, good luck to him.

The second way in which this book works is on the technical side of things and it gives you an understanding of what pro cycling is all about and gives you an appreciation for it. It does this amazingly well and as stated, I knew nothing about pro cycling, have never watched it on TV, but now I feel I have a real understanding of it and will be making an effort to watch it. For example, before I read this I did not know really how the team helps a sprinter win certain races, and 'Cav' certainly gets across that his success is a team effort which it most certainly is.

So all in all a superb book about a brilliant sportsman and an incredibly tough sport.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2009
I will never forget Mark Cavendish's response to a reporter asking what he had learnt today... "Nothing." He went on add that he had nothing to learn. This was day three of the 2008 Tour de France, with finishes in 120th, 100th and 10th, with the latter the most promising profile for the sprinter - the self-proclaimed fastest man in the world.

Not hard to see how the charges of arrogant and cocky come about!

However, at the age of 23, in this, his second ever Tour, Cavendish goes on to win four stages (followed by six wins in 2009). That puts him up there with the greats - even if not universally loved, it is hard to ignore his achievements, though many try.

The book covers the fourteen stages of Cavendish's 2008 Tour, interspersed with earlier staging points in his life and career. The epilogue deals with the disaster in the Beijing Olympics - Cavendish does not spare this Madison team-mate, Bradley Wiggins, nor the much applauded UK coaching staff for the lamentable preparation for this event.

As might be expected, Cavendish has a lot to say in this book. What you might not expect is just how articulate and insightful he writes, nor the awareness with which he readily admits his many mistakes and weaknesses. Not exactly humility, but Cavendish shares the bitter disappointments and his poor reaction to setbacks just as much as the victories. It is certainly a case of what you see is what you get. And what we get is a huge character to match a huge talent for cycling very fast over short distances.

To shoot to prominence in cycling is unheard of, at least from a British cycling perspective. Normally it is a case of grinding away in the ranks for years and years before being given a chance, so it might look like Cavendish has had it easy. That is a little unfair - the results show he deserved the chances he got, and took. They also show how quickly he learned his craft and earned the respect of his team-mates. The latter is the most important factor in any sprinters success - it is hard to say whether a Cavendish win is down to his abilities or more the result of a team effort. There again, it is Cavendish who leads and inspires confidence in the team, he contributes to the relaxed atmosphere where everyone is a part and everyones' part is acknowledged and rewarded - not everyone has that. Much of his success Cavendish attributes to his love of cycling - his passion for the sport.

It is easy to see the controversy Cavendish has kicked up from shouting off has helped keep him in the headlines as much as the race wins, and media attention is the name of the game as far as modern sport and sponsorship is concerned. But it is hard to imagine him behaving any other way.
While it is hard to find fault with Chris Hoy or Bradley Wiggins, Cavendish has achieved just as much in a very short time, so it is regrettable the British public have yet to embrace him as the great champion he is.

This book is not just a record of events, it exposes the thinkings and attitudes of a winner - someone who believes in his own abilities, someone who can overcome criticism and setbacks, someone who turns negative situations into positive ones. There is something to learn here, not just for cyclists, not just sportsmen and sportswomen...
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on 4 November 2012
Until the route for the London 2012 Olympic Road Cycling Races was announced, I had little or no interest in the world of professional cycling. When it was announced to the world's media that the quiet Surrey village of Box Hill, where I live would form a large (in fact pivotal) part of the route, all that changed. Nothing could have prepared me for the exhileration of the Olympics themselves, two days that I shall never forget.

You would never guess that this book was ghost written (by cycling journalist Daniel Frieb), and he has done an expert job, as it is written so expertly in Cav's own style. The man himself has come across occasionally as arrogant, sometimes as over confident, and often as downright rude, but here to attemps to put his side of the story, portraying himself as a man who very much knows his own mind, strengths and weaknesses and is not afraid to challenge the status quo. I think we need a few more Cav's in this world, for it strikes me that this is a brutally honest young man.

From his childhood on the Isle of Man, to his relationship with ex fiancee, to his cycling exploits, trials and triumphs, it is all here in stark and brutal honesty, with no holds barred. This is a book that not only holds great human interest, helping me to understand what makes this man tick, but which also helped me to understand more about the cycling world, the importance of team work and how the riders help each other. Cav went up enormously in my estimation when towards the end of book, he detailed the reasons why he turned down a 100 percent pay rise to stay with his (then) current team, but he knows that it is his team makes who are as responsble for his success as he is himself - they are the ones who helped and supported him along the way, and this is in the end far more important than any amount of wealth.

He comes across then, despite his media image, as a level headed young man who understands what really matters, and knows where his loyalties lie, qualities which are all too lacking in other high profile sports I can think of. I for one am eagerly anticipating the next installment of this remarkable athlete's meteoric success, which will go straight to my shopping basket the moment it is released.
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on 25 January 2011
I've had a phase of reading biographies lately, not all sporting, some good some dire. But for those who have excelled in their chosen field the recurring message has been self belief and motivation. Mark Cavendish has this in abundance. Others have identified this as arrogance but that does Mark a disservice as he frequently acknowledges his own shortcomings and from time to time compassion gets the better of him. He is outspoken and opinionated but this stems from his formidable self belief which many interpret as arrogance and a huge ego. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. He knows what he can do and what he can achieve. He sets his sights on achieving this.

His book is well written and flows well. I only spotted a couple of grammatical errors toward the end. The editor has done a very good job to maintain the fluency with which Mark has clearly documented his life so far. The content is as expected structured around cycling although he does not neglect issues that are on the periphery. For a young man of 23 years old with considerable talent whose career is beginning to blossom I found his account of his life so far immensely refreshing. There is no padding or waffle which is probably an indication of the man himself. What you see is what you get. He also gives the impression of not suffering fools or those who do not contribute 100% gladly which no doubt accounts for some of the more difficult situations he has found himself in either through his own making or beyond his control. Swagger ........ well come on! He's a young man approaching the top of his game with the whole world at his feet and he knows this. Isn't he entitled to be just a little confident. As he matures I am sure he will learn to how to deal with criticism set backs more "diplomatically". He wears his heart on his sleeve. His book definitely lifts the lid on what it is like to be a professional bike rider, the training, the pain, the relentless riding, the set backs, the politics, doping, testing, the squabbles, life within the teams, the comraderie and winning. He clinically takes the reader through what it is like to win a stage in the Tour de France. His account is so well written you feel as if you are riding with him all the way. He is as generous in praise as he is in criticism of those who fail to perform, break or bend the rules.

This book is a compelling and very enjoyable read. Hopefully it will dispel some of the very negative press he has unjustly received from the media. He is set to be the most successful British cyclist ever. He has certainly achieved more stage wins on the TdF than any other Brit. I suspect, as many who read this book, that I was wishing I had had the determination and self belief he had at such a young age. For all his faults you can't end up liking him. A very good book indeed for a first attempt from a man still so young. I look forward to his next installment.
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