Mark Cavendish of Team Dimension Data addressing media on the eve of Dubai Tour. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani

London: Cycling superstar Mark Cavendish has revealed he has won a two-year battle with clinical depression, having come out on the “other side” of a “dark” place.

The Isle of Man-born rider told The Times that while the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with the cycling schedule — the world’s sporting calendar — he is just happy to finally be back in a position to have a healthy state of mind and he is now ready to go after Belgian legend Eddie Mercx’s record of 34 stage victories in the Tour de France. Cavendish is just four stage wins back.

Given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still no clarity on the go-ahead for the Tour, which is scheduled to begin on June 27 — possibly without spectators, but Cavendish has been facing his own mental battles too.

“It’s not just been my physical health which has been dealt a blow over the last couple of years,” the 2015 Dubai Tour champion told The Times. “I’ve battled quite hard with depression during this time. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in August 2018.

“I didn’t take any medication. Like, this isn’t the time or place — we’ll do a thing on it at some point — but I received help. I was dark. And I’m on the other side, thank you. Well, as much as I can be. I think I’ve come out of that. And it’s nice to have come out of that and to look for the positives.”

Not many positives can be taken from the coronavirus pandemic but Cavendish has found one.

He is presently back at home in the Isle of Man having agreed like his Bahrain McLaren teammates to take a wage deferral for three months the size of which is dependent on income and individual circumstances.

“It could have been easy for me to go through my whole career and only see the kids once they’re teenagers,” said the father of three and who has a stepson.

“So to be able to absorb this ... to be able to do what mums and dads do, it keeps me happy, it keeps me super motivated, and it keeps me sane I guess.”

His old mentor Rod Ellingworth believes Cavendish is not far off the form of his peak year in 2016 when he won four stages on the Tour de France.

Ellingworth should know as the two have been reunited with Cavendish at the Bahrain McLaren team.

“His form is not like 2016 but he’s getting there,” said Ellingworth, who is the team general manager.

“If that was 10 out of 10, he’s somewhere like seven at the minute. He came to us one or two out of 10, that’s physical, mental and the passion for it. So he’s progressing really well.”