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Cavendish sets lofty, three-tiered goal for 2016

MILAN (VN) — Mark Cavendish’s 2016 plan is ambitious: wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for the first time, winning the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and taking a second world title in Doha. He says it will be “hard” but that with the proper planning he can hit the triple target.

Cavendish is considered cycling’s best sprinter ever with 26 Tour de France stage wins, the 2012 world title, a Milano-Sanremo victory, and many other wins. After three years with Etixx-Quick-Step, the Manx cyclist signed a three-year contract with Dimension Data that started this month. The mix of rivals and responsibilities could make his target not only hard, but impossible.

“I think it is physically possible with careful planning,” Cavendish told the media at a track cycling stop in Manchester, England. “If you work every single day. There’s 366 this year. I might have to re-evaluate later but I believe it’s possible. It will be hard to do but I believe I can do it. The guys at British cycling — [head coach] Shane Sutton and [endurance coach] Heiko Salzwedel — are the first to say if there’s someone who can do it, it’s me.”

The three events fall within a three-and-a-half-month window. The 2016 Tour starts July 2 in Mont Saint-Michel, the Olympic Omnium begins August 14, and the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar come later in the year on October 16.

Cavendish, who has worn the leader’s jerseys in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, has failed in previous attempts to wear the yellow jersey. He was held up by a crash in 2013 when the Tour began on the island of Corsica and in 2014, when the first stage ended in his mother’s hometown of Harrogate, England, he fell in the final meters and abandoned the race.

At the same time, rivals like Marcel Kittel (Etixx) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) have improved. They and others will also be on the hunt for the most famous leader’s jersey in the world this July.

An Olympic gold medal has been just as elusive for Cavendish. In the 2008 Beijing Games, his Madison partner Bradley Wiggins was not at his best, and in the 2012 London Games, despite being fit and ready for the road race, tactics worked against him.

In addition to those lofty goals, Cavendish has the responsibility to lead South Africa’s WorldTeam. Dimension Data invested millions to sign its new star and with him, it earned its place in the top division for 2016. Not only will Cavendish have his triple target in mind, but he must also haul in wins from January through the end of the season.

Cavendish starts in the team’s black colors at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and continues to the Dubai Tour. During the same time, he will race on the track at the Hong Kong World Cup in January and the world championships in early March.

“Do you think you’re being insulting to my talent as a bike rider by asking [about my chances]?” Cavendish added. “I did it in 2008. I was 23 in 2008. Won four stages of the Tour. I then went to Beijing and I believe I was the strongest guy on the track in Beijing. And I was nowhere near as fit as I am now. I believe it’s doable. If I thought it wasn’t doable I wouldn’t be doing it.”