Over the years there has been a fundamental problem with this BBC award. Is the winner a Personality or a supreme achiever in their sport?
This year will no doubt ask that question again as 2008 has been a year of great achievement for so many sportsmen and women, but how many have imprinted their characters upon us?
For me, there is only one winner. Mark Cavendish – the Manx Express.
Cav is undoubtedly a personality – and by winning four stages of the 2008 Tour de France, he has achieved something never before done by a British cyclist. The Grand Depart this year was in Britanny – spiritual home of cycling – and yet rather low-key compared to the previous “spectacle” in London. But it all went well and as the peloton rolled through the countryside we came to Chateauroux.
Cav punched his fist into the air as he won his first stage.
Stage Eight and Toulouse saw his second stage win – the bunch loomed out of the misty spray, and mouth wide open, Mark Cavendish was first across the line again. Stage 12. 168.5 km from Lavelanet to Narbonne. Cav won the sprint and stage again with style and insouciance after such a bad day for the Tour when Ricco tested positive and the Saunier-Duvel team withdrew.
Mark rode with courage and guts and refused to be bowed by others troubles, or his own injuries.
Narbonne to Nimes, just one day and 182 hard kilometres later, Cav took his fourth stage win in the world’s toughest sporting endeavour. Bleeding but triumphant, as he came over the line Mark held up four fingers, and a bandaged arm to show the world that British cyclists can win, and win clean. A big grin as well, Mark knew that he had broken all records for British cyclists in the Big Race. The interviews were full of his outrageously confident personality and all the better for it.
His next job was The Madison with Bradley Wiggins in Beijing, and as we know, it didn’t work for them. He was one of the very few British cyclists to come away from China without a medal.
In addition to Cavendish’s superb performance in Le Tour, this is another reason why he deserves the SPOTY – he has never complained about the Olympics, never criticised Brad for putting his hunt for the Team and Individual Pursuit Golds ahead of Mark’s one and only chance.
Cav is a professional. And has the most sunshine-bringing smile that I have seen on a sportsman for a very long time.
It would be joyous to think that the amazing success that the GB Cyclists had in Beijing, added to by the almost embarrassing success in Manchester at the first round of the World Cup (you’re not Team GB? Oh sorry, you won’t win anything!), might make the general public vote for a cyclist. That’s if he’s even nominated, of course.