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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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Cumberland sausage and ale propel Mark Cavendish to stage win

Cumbria produces the food of champions – and Mark Cavendish is living proof with his success in Tour of Britain.

Tour of Britain photo
Bradley Wiggins, left and Mark Cavendish before the start of stage four in Carlisle city centre in 2012

The 27-year-old Manx cycling superstar arrived at the Strickland Arms, in Great Strickland near Penrith, on Tuesday, fresh from winning stage three of the Tour of Britain, which finished in Dumfries.

Cavendish was joined by cycling hero Bradley Wiggins and other members of Team Sky, as they visited landlords Anton and Penny Flaherty to thank them for their support during the Tour de France.

The couple were presented with a yellow jersey, signed by Wiggins, after winning a contest to show their support for Team Sky, and encourage their local community to embrace the bike race. As well as bunting and beer mats, bike rides were organised from the pub and there was a charity raffle to win a giant ‘Bradley Bear’ soft toy.

Up to 300 people gathered on the pavement outside, in anticipation of meeting their heroes. Anton had been told earlier in the day that Wiggins would not be attending, so his delight at seeing the famous sideburns appear on the steps of the team bus knew no bounds.

“I’ve never felt like that before. I was awe-struck, dumbfounded, my heart was racing,” Anton told The Cumberland News.

None of the team had eaten since finishing the Dumfries stage, so they went into the pub’s dining room to sample Penny’s local fare.

The team had roughly pre-ordered their dinners, but Cavendish suddenly developed a craving for Cumberland sausage.

Anton laughed: “Once Cav wanted it, everyone wanted it. We had to tell them no, because we’d got all these roasts ready, but we said Cav could have it because he’d won the stage.”

It was not just the county’s sausage being enjoyed; Cavendish soon persuaded his team mates to try the Cumberland ale – and Anton said it was all any of them were drinking by the end.

“We crossed the Pennines and I was making sure everyone was going to have an ale,” Cavendish said before dinner. “There are a lot of Europeans in the team and I was saying they had to drink a local ale.

“It’s great to be here. The support is always really good in the north.”

While many of the die-hard cycle fans were hoping for a glimpse of Wiggins, it was the cycling heartthrob who had kept many of the women standing in the cold. Cavendish dismissed the idea of him having fans though: “I don’t think I’m a celebrity – I didn’t win anything.

“I’ve been successful the last few years, but not to the same level as the Tour de France.”

Even for cycling royalty such as Wiggins himself, the attention can be overwhelming.

“We will never get used to that, but it’s been the norm since the Olympics. I guess we are [celebrities] in a sporting sense; it’s nice to be recognised and celebrated for inspiring people.

“I just heard a girl out there say ‘Oh my god, he’s real’ – that’s what this is about, connecting with people.”

On the subject of those infamous sideburns, Wiggins said: “You’ve got to be different, haven’t you?”

The Cumbrian fare obviously hit the spot, as Cavendish went on to win stage four of the race, from Carlisle to Blackpool.

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