Cycling-Boy who wanted to fight the world to family man, Cavendish has matured

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Tour de France
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By Julien Pretot

CARCASSONNE, France (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish has not just been completing a remarkable renaissance on this year's Tour de France, he is also wrapping up a transformation into a more mature man.

The Briton's brash behaviour has left the way for a more composed attitude as Cavendish has now won 34 Tour stage wins, the same number as Belgian great Eddy Merckx, 13 years after the impetuous 23-year-old claimed his first victory on the race.

Now a father of three and stepfather of one, Cavendish is looking back at his early years.

"I'm not going to lie. Sometimes I've been personally picked up but on the same level I think I've also been a prick," he told reporters after his stage 13 win.

"But that's what happens when you're young. For many years I've suffered the consequences of being brash and young without an education on how to behave with media I guess and as you grow older and have a family you learn how to behave and unfortunately some people didn't want to let go with how I was when I was young.

"I'm a grown up now, I'm 36, I'm not a 20-year-old boy who wanted to fight the world."

After three years of poor results partly due to the Epstein-Barr virus, Cavendish is back on the Tour and he has been dealing remarkably with the pressure of having to deliver results for his team after their top sprinter Sam Bennett was left at home with a knee injury.

"It's not just about having the legs to sprint, it's also about having the head to deal with the pressure," he said, going to explain how he was constantly under pressure.

"Ironically, the sprinters probably do the least amount of work of anybody in the team at the Tour de France but well, in most cases they get paid the most money except from the guys who can get top 10 in the general classification," he added.

"But that's what you get paid for, it's to shoulder that expectation and that pressure and even if the team don't deliver you're still expected to deliver.

"Where I'm fortunate it's that my team deliver every single time and that puts the pressure on me."

Asked how he felt about matching Merckx's record, Cavendish said he had no time to think about it.

"The problem is we still got work to do tomorrow we don't have time to reflect on it," he said.

With two or three more sprint finishes left in this year's Tour, Cavendish is now looking set to improve the record.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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