Mark Cavendish is still winning even when he is not racing, collecting awards in Belgium and Italy in recognition of his amazing 2009 season.
Cavendish was in Belgium on Saturday to collect the prestigious International Flandrian of the Year prize and then traveled to Italy on Monday for the Gran Gala Ciclistico in Conegliano, near Venice.
In a ceremony broadcast live on Belgian television and organised by newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, a jury of team managers, sports directors and media personalities voted for Cavendish as top international cyclist of the year. Top Belgian male cyclist was Philippe Gilbert.
“It’s a tremendous honour to get this award. It’s something really important to me. You just look at the names of the people who’ve got this prize before, like Fabian Cancellara last year, and you can see how special it really is,” Cavendish said.
“As a kid I would watch Belgian bike races for hours on TV and I love racing there now because the Belgians have a real appreciation for cycling and cyclists. But I could never have dreamed of getting an award like this one day, and it’s a real honour to receive it.”
On Monday night Cavendish was the centre of attention because he turned up at the Gran Gala Ciclistico in Italy with his new girlfriend Fiorella Migliore (pictured).
Images of Cavendish’s Milan-San Remo victory were played on a huge screen as Cavendish stood alongside his Team Columbia directeur sportif Valerio Piva, who collected an award for the team’s 86 victories during 2009.
As well as winning Milan-San Remo this year, Cavendish won six stages of this year’s Tour de France, three stages of the Giro d’Italia and 23 professional wins in total.
Giro d’Italia winner Denis Menchov was also at the Gran Gala, along with UCI President Pat McQuaid, women’s world champion Tataina Guderzo and Italian riders Damiano Cunego and Rinaldo Nocentini.
Mark Cavendish and girlfriend Fiorella Migliore at the ceremony in Italy
Mark Cavendish, centre, at the Gran Gala Ciclistico