A Useful Review – Mark Cavendish: Never Enough

I like a good sports documentary. Sports themselves, I always contend, are just extended, character-driven narratives. They’re improvisational to a degree, but the characters and themes are fixed, confined to great victories and tragic losses, heroes and villains. That’s why not a lot of them get made about mid-pack racers or loyal domestiques.

What I know from watching sports docs through the years is that the facts are not that germane to the point, because they often get in the way of a clean narrative line. I enjoyed Netflix’ last cycling series, Tour de France: Unchained, but it didn’t surprise me when many of the racers portrayed found the focus and storyline of the final production didn’t match up with their experiences of the event.

So here we go with Mark Cavendish: Never Enough, the story of the greatest sprinter of the modern era (or any era?). I can say honestly, I’ve watched his entire career, and even read his biography Boy Racer, so this is a story I’ve followed already from beginning to end, and I was curious what I’d learn in the retelling.

Here’s what you already know. For a time, there was no one faster on two wheels on this planet Earth. Predictably, he was brash, cocky, arrogant, etc. He was a difficult personality, demanding, potentially cruel. And yet, when you win all the time, people will let you be an asshole.

Also, time stands still for no one. There were late career crashes. There was a bout with Epstein-Barr Virus that set him back. Clinical depression followed, and a quick succession of new teams and restarts. And of course, there was a triumphant return (excepting perhaps Cav’s last tilt at the Tour just this summer, which didn’t make the doc), because with the triumphant return there’s no story.

The overarching message of this film is in the title. Cavendish learns, the very hard way, that there is never enough external validation, never enough wins or glowing praise, to compensate for the pain of self-loathing, self-doubt, and depression. Every great champion is, in a sense, only tilting at windmills if they don’t make room for themselves and what’s important to them in their campaign for glory.

Look, if you like bike racing, you’ll enjoy this film. Cav is by turns incomprehensible, immature, vulnerable, likeable. The documentary itself is a bit disjointed. There are interviews with the man himself, in which it’s not clear at all what he’s saying. There are snippets of banter from Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie that seem misplaced. It’s all fine, if not the best bit of filmmaking you’re gonna get.

Mark Cavendish: Never Enough is on Netflix now until the next Fast and Furious movie comes out.

Join the conversation
  1. alanm9 says

    FINALLY, someone besides me acknowledging a documentary about one of the greatest pro cyclists of all time. All the other sites have completely ignored it (after wetting themselves over Unchained). If you don’t like Cav (and I always have) there is much to like; its honest about his failures and unlikable side. Watch it anyway, its much more raw and unfiltered than that other doc. And yes, watch it with Closed Captioning turned on. Thanks Robot, you are not alone! 🙂

  2. jlaudolff says

    Scenes of Cav as a scrappy youngster were priceless. But I could not figure out why he would want his therapist participating in something like this. That stuff is so personal. Agreed though with Robot’s assessment of how the path to stardom is rife with moments that are far from glamorous or easy. Even Patrick L. comes off as warmly human in this doc.

  3. Bruce Pierce says

    @Alanm9, I disagree, more interesting with closed captioning off ;D.
    Speaking of documentaries, anyone see the Greg Lemond one (“The Last Rider”) yet?
    I’ve been checking on how to see it and it now seems you can rent or buy it on Vudu (Fandango service) – I’ll get on that this week…

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