MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — Mark Cavendish has been warned by team selectors that he must finish in the top 3 at next week’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships to remain in contention for a place on Great Britain’s squad for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The multiple Tour de France stage winner has declared his intention to compete in the multi-event omnium in Brazil in early August as he seeks to win a first ever Olympic medal. But first he faces the world championships at the Lee Valley Velodrome in London, the scene of the 2012 Olympics, where he must prove his form in the omnium starting next Friday.
“For Cav to be in Rio he needs to perform well next week,” Team GB technical director Shane Sutton said. “He would be expecting that of himself. Otherwise, he would rule himself out.
“And if he can’t make the top 3 in the world, I would think he would put his hand up and go back and pursue his dreams of the leader’s yellow jersey and winning stages on the Tour de France.
“I believe he can do it, we wouldn’t have selected him otherwise. That’s not us being brutal, that’s Cav being Cav, probably the greatest road sprinter of all time. He needs to know he can go to Rio and get the medal.”
The crux of Great Britain’s issue remains Cavendish’s desire to do well in the Tour de France, an event in which he has won an astonishing 26 stages during his career.
But his track coaches remain unconvinced that the 30-year-old can take part in one of the sport’s most grueling events throughout July and then hit peak form in Rio in August, with only two weeks between the end of the Tour and the start of the Olympics.
“Mark knows what is needed, I’m not talking to a little kid, he knows he has to prioritize,” Team GB coach Heiko Salzwedel said.
“If you ask me realistically, riding for two or three weeks on the Tour de France, he might be fit for the [Olympic] road race but not for the Olympic omnium. Cav has to digest and make a decision about this.”
Cavendish has remained adamant since declaring his interest in riding at the Olympics, saying he can balance his commitments between his national team and his new professional road outfit Dimension Data.
The Manx rider has never won an Olympic medal, having missed out in Beijing in 2008 when he came up short in the now-defunct Madison event, riding with countryman Bradley Wiggins.
“I haven’t won an Olympic medal yet. I would quite like to do that this year,” Cavendish said.
“It’s not like we pay a pound to racing on a Sunday in a club races or we are out after work training. We are professional bike riders, it’s our job.
“It’s different from professional bike riding. I am definitely proud to represent my country.
“I said the other day, nearly half of the worlds I have done I have won something. But I never go in and just cruise around training in a GB tracksuit. I am always motivated to do well and win. I appreciate what it means to be selected for your country.
“I have always wanted to be the best that I can be. I wasn’t always the best at everything but wanted to be. I enjoy riding my bike. That is why I train, I race, I still love it.
“The winning bit is built-in and part of my nature. I am watching everything I am eating because I am doing the track.”