Mark Cavendish: Never Enough 2023 Movie Review
The movie offers some nods to Cavendish’s larger biography, starting off with footage of him as a grade-school-aged rider, but the bulk of the film’s arc is from the 2016 Tour de France to the 2021 race, a segment that encompasses him at his competitive peak, his lowest low, and his eventual return to form. It’s a high-action documentary, with lots of exciting race footage balancing out the de rigeur interviews.
There aren’t many bigger names in contemporary competitive cycling than Mark Cavendish. The British road racer quickly became one of the world’s best, becoming the youngest British man to win a Tour de France stage, and threatened to challenge one of the sport’s most enduring records–Belgian great Eddy Merckx’s mark of 34 individual Tour de France stage wins. By 2016, he was at the height of his career, regarded as one of the best sprinters in the world.
Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, a common disease that, in some cases–including Cavendish’s–can lead to chronic fatigue. For a notoriously high-energy competitor in an extremely-demanding sport, the diagnosis was devastating, and there was no treatment other than rest and time. Cavendish quickly lost weight, and lost his familiar sprinting power. Many in the sport speculated that his career was effectively over–a sentiment neatly encapsulated in Mark Cavendish: Never Enough by clips from notorious American cyclist Lance Armstrong’s podcast, where Armstrong himself says as much. A controversial crash with Peter Sagan knocked Cavendish out of the 2017 Tour de France, and furthered the sense that his moment in sun–and his chase of Merckx’s record–was over.
In the 2018 Tour de France, Cavendish missed the time cut, the first time he’d been eliminated during the competition. “Sad to see,” one commentator notes in footage from the race. “We wish him the best,” another notes, in the tone one uses when you know the best is over. “Would you call this rock bottom?” a reporter asks Cavendish. “Yeah,” he replies. “I think so.”
“You don’t go from being the best in the world to really not capable of… how? How does it happen?”, Cavendish recalls, still incredulous at how quickly his power has sapped away, and both he and wife Peta reflect on how it changed him emotionally, making him angry and difficult to live with.
This arc–from Cavendish’s competitive peak in 2016, to his downslide in 2018 and beyond, and on to his redemptive return in 2021–is the primary time-frame for Mark Cavendish: Never Enough. It’s a genuine emotional journey, as Cavendish struggles not just with Epstein-Barr, but with clinical depression furthered by his inability to compete in the sport he loves. As he battles back–returning to the Tour de France in 2021 after a two-year absence from the race–and eventually ties Merckx’s record, we see Cavendish change and mature. He’s not just regaining his form as an athlete, he’s maturing, changing away from the brash, abrasive and never-satisfied rider he was before his adversity and becoming a more grounded and well-rounded figure.
Avid fans of cycling will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at one of the sport’s most compelling figures, but even if you’re not deep into the sport, Mark Cavendish: Never Enough is a redemption-and-return story worthy of a Disney sports movie, and it’s a solid way to spend a few hours.