MARK Cavendish has said Boris Johnson deserved no criticism for refusing to bring the Tour de France back to London.

Transport for London last month won the right to host the first three stages of the 2017 race, only for Mr Johnson to withdraw his support, saying it was a “no brainer” that the rumoured £35 million cost would be better spent on safe cycling lanes.

  

Cavendish said London’s hosting of the 2007 Grand Depart – when he rode the Tour for the first time – was “the most incredible experience”. But he insisted the Mayor’s commitment to cycling could not be doubted.

He told the Standard: “I think that with the support that Boris has for cycling, there has got to be a reason behind it. There has got to be more than just: ‘We don’t want to do it’.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as he can’t be arsed with it. He’s been a big supporter of cycling. I’m not about to bash him for it.”

Cavendish, who lives in Italy, is in London to support the return of six-day indoor racing to the capital for the first time in 35 years. The event, which he described as “the Tour de France on the track”, begins on Sunday [18] at the Olympic velodrome. 

A shoulder injury sustained when Cavendish collided with a parked car during the Tour of Britain last month robbed him of the chance to compete for the first time at the 2012 velodrome.

Nightclub-style light shows, loud music, beer and frenetic pursuits will create a party atmosphere. “You have got racing on for a whole night, for six nights,” Cavendish said. “I would loved to have raced here.”

He said his injury record – he also required surgery after crashing out of the 2014 Tour de France – would make him worry if his children followed him into the sport.

Cavendish became a father for the second time when wife Peta gave birth to son Frey two months ago. Their daughter Delilah, three, has just learned to ride a bike.

“Obviously I know the injuries I get and I know the dangers,” he said. “As a protective father I’m not that keen on it, but I will always be supportive of whatever my kids want to do. But I will always be a bit nervous because I know what can happen to cyclists.”

He added: “Delilah can ride without stabilisers now. She was always flying round on her balance bike. She had a sports day at nursery and she won everything. I was dead proud of that. I said: ‘Do you want a present?’ She said: ‘Yes, I want a bike with pedals like you.'”

The increasing popularity of cycling in the UK was “incredible to see”, he said. “When I first started cycling it was a pretty niche sport. 

“To see, during my career, more people riding their bikes in this country – whether it’s racing, with their family as a past-time, whether it’s commuting – it’s pretty impressive. It’s growing not just as a sport but as a way of life.”

Advertisements