Arise, Sir Cav: Mark Cavendish awarded knighthood in king’s birthday honours

<span>Mark Cavendish celebrates a stage win in last year’s Giro d’Italia.</span><span>Photograph: Jennifer Lorenzini/Reuters</span>
Mark Cavendish celebrates a stage win in last year’s Giro d’Italia.Photograph: Jennifer Lorenzini/Reuters

The British cyclist Mark Cavendish, whose fearlessness, raw power, and insatiable thirst for success has earned him 164 professional victories in a glittering career, has been knighted in the king’s birthday honours.

The 39-year-old, who is known as the Manx Missile because of his speed and aggressiveness in sprint finishes, has also won 34 Tour de France stages, putting him joint first on the all-time list together with Eddy Merckx.

Related: ‘I just love riding my bike’: Mark Cavendish announces he will race on

But few would be surprised to see him surpass that record this summer before he makes the trip to Buckingham Palace – including his first-ever coach at the Isle of Man National Sports Centre.

Dot Tilbury, 74, remembers a young lad with a single-minded determination to succeed which has never left him. “I used to say to him before a race: ‘How you’re feeling today?’” she tells the Guardian. “And he just looked at me and said: ‘I’m going to win.’ And usually did.”

She adds: “He was just totally focused on winning. Second or third was no use to him. One of his teachers told me that when he was discussing his GCSE options, he said to them: ‘Well, I’ll do this, but I won’t need it because I’m going to be a professional racer.’

When he first started, Cavendish only had a BMX bike and so was beaten in races by those on faster racing bikes. “But folklore has it that he said to his mum: ‘If you buy me a mountain bike, I’ll be able to win,’” she says. “He got one for Christmas on his 13th birthday, and the rest is history.”

I always tell people, don’t write him off in the Tour de France

Dot Tilbury, Cavendish’s first coach

Tilbury also remembers alerting Prince Charles to Cavendish’s talent when the future king visited the island during the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. At that point the Manx man was largely unknown 20-year-old, but he went on to win a gold medal.

“I told King Charles and Camilla that we were very proud because we had someone from the Isle of Man competing, Mark Cavendish, and he should look out for him,” she says. King Charles replied: ‘Oh, yes, yes,’ before asking me what his name was again. So I told him. And nearly 20 years on he will be knighting him.”

Tilbury said that Cavendish’s KBE would be well received in the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea with a population of 84,000 people.

“We are a very close community,” she says. “Whenever he races in the Tour de France I get little old ladies who never used to follow cycling coming up to me in Marks & Spencer’s to say: ‘I see he won again the other day.’ We are all bursting with pride.”

“He’s had a wonderful career. It has been peppered with injuries and crashes, but he’s always picked himself up. I always tell people, don’t write him off in the Tour de France because he would never come back if he didn’t think he could win another stage. He wouldn’t waste his time. He is that driven.”

Tilbury still coaches today and she sees the same love of the sport in Cavendish’s six-year-old son, Casper, when the family come back to the island. “He came and did our one-lap race and did really well.”

There was also a CBE for another prominent cyclist, Chris Boardman, who won an individual pursuit cycling gold medal at the 1992 Olympics and is now the chair of Sport England. Meanwhile former Scotland footballer Graeme Souness becomes a CBE for services to football, while Ally McCoist is made an OBE for services to football and broadcasting.

The 1988 Masters golf champion Sandy Lyle and former England cricketer Katherine Sciver-Brunt are made OBEs, while the former England football coach Chris Powell becomes an MBE. Anita Neil, the sprinter who became the first black woman to compete for Team GB at an Olympics in 1968, has been made an MBE.