World road race champion Mark Cavendish claimed Britain’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Thursday, beating off competition in a public vote from golfer Darren Clarke and athlete Mo Farah. The 26-year-old, also the Tour de France’s green jersey winner, became only the second road cyclist to take the award, following the late Tommy Simpson’s win in 1965. Northern Irish golfer Clarke, this year’s British Open champion, was voted into second place with world 5,000 meters gold medallist Farah third.
The build-up to this year’s showpiece event was overshadowed by a row over the lack of any women on the 10-strong shortlist despite a 2011 that produced several British female world champions. Cavendish, who is one of Britain’s top hopes for a home gold at next year’s London Olympics, topped the 2011 Tour de France’s points table after winning five stages and followed it up with a thrilling win in the World Road Race Championships in Denmark in September.
“I am absolutely speechless, some of my team-mates here will say that is a rare thing,” joked Cavendish. “This award is a landmark for cycling,” he added. “For cycling to be recognised in a non-Olympic year is unheard of.”
The BBC award capped off a fine year for the Isle of Man-born cyclist, awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) medal in November. Elsewhere, England’s cricketers were named Team of the Year, with their coach Andy Flower winning the Coach of the Year award, in recognition of their rise to the top of the world Test rankings. Meanwhile Wimbledon tennis champion Novak Djokovic won the Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. Five-times Olympic rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave won the Lifetime Achievement award and former Grand National winning jockey Bob Champion was given the Helen Rollason Award in recognition of the money he’d raised for cancer charities since overcoming the disease himself.