DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Mark Cavendish will plan his 2016 schedule, deciding if his Olympic gold medal quest is attainable, this week in the Tour of Qatar.
The British super sprinter, now with Dimension Data, sports a resume that includes 26 Tour de France stage wins, a world title, and a Milano-Sanremo victory. He is aiming for more of the same this year, plus combining his road job with his quest to win the omnium at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
However, Cavendish said that by the end of this week he could call off racing in the March track world championships and decide whether his quest is possible.
“I got to see how I’m going to race first,” Cavendish said in a press sit-down ahead of the Tour of Qatar. “I’ll decide on the worlds in the middle of this race, see how my endurance is. If I don’t hold up after that… Obviously my endurance isn’t very good so I’ll have to see how I’ll go in a few days. I’ll make a call then.”
Cavendish got off to a good start Monday, winning the opening stage in Qatar. He earned a tight victory in the bunch sprint finish ahead of Sacha Modolo of Lampre – Merida and Andrea Guardini of Astana.
Cavendish has already qualified for the British track team for the Rio Games, but he must still be selected by the team. At the same time, he must lead his new road team in the sprints from Qatar this week to the Tour de France in July. At the Tour, he wants to wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his career by winning the opening stage.
“It’s tricky, its not tricky it’s just that every single day counts. It might not work, it might be in a few weeks, I realize it’s not doable and I have to change everything, but I believe it’s possible to do,” Cavendish said. “I think there’s very few riders who could do the road and track at a high level, but I think I’m fortunate I can do that.”
If he finds out he cannot combine all of his goals, Cavendish said “things will have to change.”
It is unclear if team GB will select Cavendish to ride the multi-event omnium in Rio if he does not race the worlds in London. He might need a good showing to earn the ride, since in the last World Cup in Hong Kong he placed fourth.
When asked whether calling off the worlds would essentially end his quest to win track gold in Rio, Cavendish showed his prickly side. “Is there any way you could try to not call off some polemic story?”
The 30-year-old is considered one of cycling’s best sprinters, if not the best. But in recent times, rivals André Greipel of Lotto – Soudal, Marcel Kittel of Etixx – Quick-Step, and Alexander Kristoff of Katusha have won more sprint finishes.
In the Dubai Tour last week, Kittel won two stages and Cavendish placed second and third in stages 1 and 4. However, Cavendish said he generated his maximum watts since 2011 in one of those sprints. Asked if he learned anything from sprinting against Kittel in Dubai or his debut in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia last month, he replied, “no.”
For now, the yellow jersey, an Olympic gold medal, and a second road world title in October remain Cavendish’s goals for 2016.
“I might not wear the yellow jersey, I might not win the Olympics, I might not win the worlds — the probability of winning two of them is pretty slim, let alone all three, it’s just something nice for you to write about,” he said.
“I’m a professional road rider so I’m going to ride on the road. I don’t pay a pound to race the Tour of Qatar or in Dubai, so I get paid to ride on the road. That’s my job, and I can’t win an Olympic medal on the road, so I’ll go on the track to win an Olympic medal if I can.”
Cavendish came up short of earning a medal in the last two Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Games, his Madison partner Bradley Wiggins was off his form and in the 2012 London Games, Cavendish’s quest was stopped by the tactics in the road race.