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Cavendish’s Olympic hopes hinge on track worlds

Next month’s world track cycling championships will go a long way toward determining if Mark Cavendish will be racing for a gold medal this summer in Brazil.

Now 30, Cavendish has made a run at the omnium event a major goal for 2016. With a road race course too hilly for Cavendish’s sprinter characteristics, and the Madison no longer part of the Olympics, the omnium presents Cavendish’s only realistic hope to medal in what could be his last chance at Olympic glory. Some, including Italian rival Elia Viviani, have suggested the omnium is an unrealistic goal for Cavendish.

Cavendish will line up with the British cycling team for the UCI World Cycling Track Championships (March 2-6), team officials confirmed Wednesday. He will pair with Bradley Wiggins to race the Madison (no longer an Olympic event), and then try his luck in the omnium, the six-discipline event where Cavendish hopes to race for gold in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Cavendish, who’s said he’s “won everything else” in cycling, is holding out hope of having a shot at an elusive Olympic medal.

This will be Cavendish’s first round on the world championship boards since 2009. In 2008, he and Wiggins linked up to win the Madison world title, but a few months later, they failed to medal in the two-man Madison event en route to ninth in Beijing. Cavendish was the only member of the British track cycling team in the 2008 Olympic Games to go home without a medal. At the 2012 Games, Cavendish fell short when he was the pre-race favorite for the road race, finishing 29th in London.

Wiggins, meanwhile, will race the team pursuit along with the Madison at the London worlds ahead of Rio de Janeiro, where he hopes to win a record eighth Olympic medal to become the most successful British Olympian.

“The team we’ve selected is close to the Olympic model,” British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton told AP. “Winning is always the key objective for any sports team, and we’re sticking to our long-term goal, which is success at the Olympic Games in Rio, so we will be making performance decisions based on this strategy.”

Cavendish rode to fourth in a World Cup omnium event in mid-January in Hong Kong, giving him points to qualify for the worlds. A strong performance in London is essential for Cavendish to be selected for the British Olympic team for Rio.