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Cavendish targets Rio Olympics — ‘I’ve won everything else’

MILAN (VN) — Mark Cavendish will start 2016 with a gold medal in mind at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because, as he said, “I’ve pretty much won everything else.”

Cavendish will debut with his new Dimension Data team at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race January 31 in Australia and will build toward the Tour de France next summer. However, mixed in with the season will be a series of track cycling events and training to be ready for the Omnium in Rio.

“I’m not trying just to get a place in the team,” Cavendish told Telegraph Sport. “If I go to Rio, I want to get a result. I think an Olympic medal is the only thing missing. [As a sprinter] I can’t win the Tour de France, but I’ve pretty much won everything else that I can within my physical realm.”

Cavendish has won 26 stages in the Tour, a road worlds title (2011), Milano-Sanremo (2009), and several other races so far in his career. He has come up short in the Olympics, however, as he did not win a medal in Beijing (track) or London (road).

His first stop as a contracted Dimension Data rider, after three years with Etixx-Quick-Step, is round five of the Revolution Series in Manchester, England, January 2. He will ride as part of the Great Britain quartet in the team pursuit.

Cavendish must qualify for the six-discipline Omnium in Rio, putting him against Ed Clancy and Jon Dibben. To do so, he will need to pick up points in the final round of the Track Cycling World Cup in Hong Kong two weeks after Manchester. From there, Cavendish will travel to Australia to begin the road season.

After Cavendish spent years bickering with Etixx team boss Patrick Lefevere over his track ambitions, Dimension Data manager Doug Ryder is happy to share Cavendish’s dream, and the time it takes with training and qualification, of winning a medal at the Olympics next summer. Lefevere argued that if he was paying a rider, he wanted him to ride in his team kit and on a bike with the sponsor’s name.

“If it fits into the strategy of the team, and into the goals and objectives of our partners, then absolutely,” Ryder told VeloNews when asked about combining the road season with track events.

“It’s top of mind for him. [We will] unpack the season so that he can get the most value out of the season and achieve his goals, which will help the team.”

After the Evans race, Cavendish is due to return to Europe via the Dubai Tour, February 3-6. Besides the Olympics, his road goals will likely include Milano-Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, the Tour de France, and the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Brian Holm, who worked with Cavendish in HTC-Highroad and Etixx, said everything is possible.

“[Cavendish will] have a big season,” Holm told VeloNews. “He has several targets. I think he’ll go for the Olympics, to be world champion, and to win a few stages at the Tour. [Marcel] Kittel, [André] Greipel, and ‘Cav’ will probably divide the winnings.”