This is, after all, Britain’s first world road race champion for 46 years and the winner of 25 stages of the Tour de France – more than any of his compatriots in history.
Yet for each of those accomplishments he had a first-class team working to support him.
In the British road race championship, the Manx Missile is often a lone wolf, as he will be today when he dons the jersey of his professional team Etixx-Quick Step to try to beat a six-strong team from Sky, among others, and win the title he won in 2013.
He is not alone in such isolation. Yorkshireman Scott Thwaites will also have to go it alone today if he is to continue the upward trajectory of his career by joining the likes of Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Sir Bradley Wiggins in slipping his arms into the national jersey.
For the 25-year-old is the sole Briton on the Bora-Argon 18 team, a German pro-continental squad derived out of the Endura team on which Thwaites earned his stripes in the paid ranks.
“It’s going to be very tough and there’s quite a few contenders,” said Thwaites, who was seventh in this race two years ago in Glasgow, having won the Under-23 title in 2011.
“Being on your own makes it more difficult, but the nationals is always difficult with Sky having so many numbers. Having said that, it would be good to be able to step up to match some of the guys from the big teams.”
Thwaites knows the key to his chances on a 197.6km circuit that includes nine summits on the cobbles of Michaelgate, is flexibility.
“You can waste a lot of energy chasing down moves, so you’ve got to watch what Team Sky are doing and the other big teams,” said Thwaites.
“I can’t go out there with a set plan. I can’t decide to go with a breakaway because there’s so many who can chase me down or neutralise what I do.
“I’ve got to play the following game and try and turn things into my advantage.
“With the climbs in this sort of race it’s more about position. If you look at the nationals down the years, the winners are all from a small group.”
Thwaites has local knowledge to fall back on. He won the Lincoln Grand Prix four years ago on a similar route, while his greatest accomplishment to date also gives him confidence of his potential to challenge alone.
Ten months ago in the torrential rain of Glasgow, Thwaites won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal by sticking to the wheel of eventual winner Thomas and hanging in with the leading trio until the end.
The Commonwealth race was so demanding that Thwaites was one of just a dozen finishers from more than 100 starters.
“It really was every man for himself on that circuit,” recalled Thwaites, who is also seeking a third win in four years at the Otley Grand Prix next Wednesday.
“I’ve had a bit more recognition throughout the cycling community for the win and it’s put my name out there a bit more.
“It was a massive moment for me personally and great that I executed a good strategy at a big event and have a medal to show for it for the rest of my life.”
Thwaites has taken that greater recognition and the belief that came with it into his 2015 campaign. Primarily a Classics rider, he has achieved three top-five finishes in one-day races and was also 17th in the famous Gent-Wevelgem Classic in the Spring.
The gradual success stems from a long association with a team that now stretches into a fourth year.
Compared to his fellow West Yorkshireman Josh Edmondson – who was chewed up and spat out by the multi-national Sky programme and now finds himself back on a British team in An Post Chain Reaction, whom he represents in Lincoln – it is looking a wise move.
Thwaites said: “It’s not an easy decision to make at the end of each season. For me, I didn’t want to go to a big team where opportunities are limited.
“I wanted to go to a team where you’re given opportunities.
“You’ve got to think about the big picture. It’s what fits you personally. Staying where I am was the right choice for me.”
As well as Thwaites and Edmondson, Sheffield’s Adam Blythe flies the Yorkshire flag for Orica GreenEdge alongside the fast-rising Yates twins of Adam and Simon from Lancashire.
Rotherham’s Russell Downing – Yorkshire’s last national champion 10 years ago – lines up for Cult Energy while Gabriel Cullaigh, Charlie Tanfield, Tom Bustard, Nathan Edmondson, in-form Ed Clancy, Tom and Joe Moses, Liam Holohan, Tom Barrass and Pete Williams – who won Wednesday’s Ilkley Cycle Races – also represent the White Rose.
Lizzie Armitstead, the London 2012 Olympic silver medallist, is one of the favourites for the women’s title she last won in 2013, despite being involved in a bad crash at the Women’s Tour late last week.