Mark Cavendish – British, 25, Cycling (-)
Confident to the point of arrogance, successful to the point of invincibility, Mark Cavendish’s army of fans is equally matched by his regiment of detractors.
Having developed a reputation for saying exactly what he thinks – not always the best strategy in a sport as fickle and political as cycling – and having won a mammoth 15 stages of the Tour de France, five of the Giro d’Italia and three of the Vuelta a Espana since 2008, Cavendish is regularly in the headlines – if only rarely in his own country. A British sportsman at the very top of his game, and recognised and celebrated as such throughout Europe, he still has only limited fame in Britain. That situation, however, is changing. Having raced with HTC-Highroad, one of the most commercially progressive teams on the professional circuit, since 2007, Cavendish’s profile, already enormous in cycling’s European heartland, is gradually rising in his own country.
Though the setup of the sport is such that any endorsement deal would probably need to go through the team, Cavendish’s explosive, winning style, his chance of medalling at his home Olympics next year, where the road course has been all but designed for him, his squeaky clean stance on drugs – he was one of the first riders to sign up to the UCI’s anti-doping charter in 2007 – and the whispered suggestions of an impending move to British Team Sky make him the hottest commercial property in the professional peloton.