By 2016, Mark Cavendish had won 30 stages of the Tour de France. It was extraordinary. Most pro cyclists go their entire careers without winning any at all. Only one person in history had ever won more. And then, seemingly overnight, his career fell apart.
There was two gruesome crashes. Chronic fatigue, depression, anger, and eating disorders. He could barely finish a race.
People quickly distanced themselves. Many said he was done: too old, too slow, too erratic.
The wheels - literally and figuratively - came off.
Only a few people seemed to give a s***. He had his family, a coach; a doctor; and a neuroscientist named David Spindler.
Cavendish was dubious about Spindler at first. They went right back to basics. Back to his home on the Isle of Man. To the dusty track where it all began - where he started racing bikes as an 8 year old kid.
For 25 years Mark Cavendish thought he loved cycling for the race. For the rush. For the speed.
Turned out he was wrong. Instead, he loved cycling for the simple sense of freedom. It was a seemingly small pivot. A single gear shift. But it was a whole different way of seeing... well, everything.
Fast forward 18 months or so, and the Tour de France was still out of reach. But a larger-than-life team boss called Patrick Lefevere took a bet. Suddenly Cavendish was back in the saddle.
Coming in with a total of zero Tour de France stage wins for 5 years, most people thought Mark and Patrick were mad.
That tour, Mark Cavendish won an incredible four stages - taking him level on the all-time list with the legendary Eddy Merckx.
How? Only he’ll know.
But I can’t help but wonder if some of it came from rediscovering that sense of freedom.
Ok, so what?
Well, there’s probably something you do that you honestly believe is for a particular reason. But underneath it all, it’s for quite another. Don’t underestimate the importance of shifting gears - and asking why.
P.S. Check out the documentary ‘Mark Cavendish: Never Enough’ on Netflix. You'll never cycle without a helmet again.