Here at PEZ, we had no such recognition problems; and we were straight on the phone to Barry Hoban – who in 1975 on the big concrete track at Bordeaux, out dragged Rik Van Linden, Francesco Moser, Walter Godefroot, Gerben Karstens, Marc De Meyer and Jacques Esclassan to take stage 8 of the 1975 Tour de France – to get his opinions on the man we Brits have had to wait 33 years for, Mark Cavendish.
PEZ: Your opinion on ‘Cav,’ please Barry?
Barry: The guy is damned fast! He’s an entirely different sprinter to me; he’s what we’d call a ‘pure’ sprinter, in the Van Linden or Sercu mould; those guys had an amazing burst of speed, which he has too, but if it’s a lumpy or there’s been a lot of jumping around on the way, then you won’t see them at the death.
He is very fast though, he’s winning these sprints lengths clear.
PEZ: What do you rate as his biggest strength?
Barry: Sheer speed! But not just that, he has a team which is completely dedicated to him, he’s not bothered about what anyone else is up to; he’s just sitting there waiting to be delivered to where he wants to be.
It’s different for the likes of Robbie McEwen, who is ducking and diving around; it was the same for me in my day, I didn’t have one lead out guy, never mind a whole ‘train.’
I think if Cavendish makes it to the last stage, he’ll be unbeatable on the Champs Ellysees, no one is faster than him, at the moment.
Barry: I have to be diplomatic here, but he’s a ‘sit tight’ sort of a sprinter, I can’t see him ever winning the likes of Paris – Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders, but certainly he looks capable of winning a Ghent – Wevelgem, Paris-Tours or Milan – San Remo, where he’s delivered to the line by his team.
If it’s lumpy, then he struggles, whereas the likes of Zabel and Hushovd can get over the bumps.
That said, he’s only 23 and has plenty of time to work on improving his climbing.
PEZ: The Green Jersey one day?
Barry: Yes, definitely. I received a text from a friend in Ireland yesterday, it said; ‘it’s only taken 33 years for someone else to be able to win a bunch sprint in the Tour!’
I think if he’s there at the finish line in this Tour, he’ll dominate, but I don’t know his agenda, if he’s planning on going all the way to Paris – remember, he has the Olympic Madison coming up and may climb off before the finish to prepare for Beijing.
Ricco has done nothing but impress…two stages to his young name already, plus the best young rider AND climber jerseys.
PEZ: What about the GC guys, who’s impressing?
Barry: The guys who are up there, I expected to be; Valverde, Evans, Ricco – maybe Kirchen is a bit of a surprise, but remember his morale will be sky high, he’s going well and Cavendish has won two stages.
That will be rubbing off on the whole squad, there’s a ‘flow’ of success running through the team.
In 1974 in the Gan-Mercier team, I experienced a similar situation; we couldn’t stop winning, even when the manager told us just to take it easy, victories came.
I definitely think that the Columbia team are in that sort of groove just now.
PEZ: Who is your favourite for the overall win?
Barry: I think it’s too early to say, there are some dark horses in there. Take Luis Leon Sanchez, he’s obviously got great form and whilst he rode a poor first time trial, remember that he’s Spanish time trial champion.
Luis Sanchez looked amazing in Stage 7, but a few days on…not so much.
In my opinion it could go to the last time trial before it’s decided, and the final time trial in the Tour is unlike any other time trial.
Unfortunately for Caisse d’Epargne, it was not only Sanchez, but Valverde and Pereiro as well.
A rider can be a super time tester, but if he’s tired, then a rider who has good form and motivation will beat him – and remember that two minutes isn’t a lot to lose over 53 kilometres.
Evans is the favourite, but all the eggs are in one basket at Lotto; Caisse have Valverde and Pereiro – and now Sanchez, they have a lot of cards to play!
Barry: Thick, completely stupid, you’re gonna get caught nowadays!
Sometimes guys think; ‘this is an emergency, I’m struggling, I don’t have the legs, I need to take something!’ But you can’t now, the tests are so thorough and there are so many of them, like I said, you’re gonna get caught!
I’d loved to have raced today, with all the testing that’s being done. When I raced, there were guys who you could beat easily, then all of a sudden, they were beating you and growing muscles on their muscles!
Some riders would take anything, with no thought about the future, they didn’t give a damn and just took the stuff; there are a lot of riders from my generation who have psychological problems now. During my career, I used to think; ‘when I retire, at around 40, I’ll still be in good nick!’
And all these years later, he’s certainly still in great form, and by-the-way, double Tour stage wins? – Barry did that twice, in ’69 and ’73!