Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, a 26-time Tour de France stage winner, seems intent to pursuing the Rio 2016 Olympics, after casting major doubt in January.
“It has got to the point that even if it’s in synchronized swimming … an Olympic medal is the only thing I’m missing,” the two-time Olympian said earlier this month, according to the Telegraph.
Cavendish, 30, had medal hopes evaporate at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.
In 2008, Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins finished ninth in track cycling’s madison after winning the World Championship five months earlier. Cavendish was the only British track cycling team member not to win a medal in Beijing.
In 2012, Cavendish was the hope to win Great Britain’s first gold medal of the London Games in the road race. He finished 29th.
In January, Cavendish said he wanted to try for a third Olympics, but it would be hard.
“I can’t do it on the road [the Rio road race course doesn’t suit his sprinting prowess], can’t do it in the time trial, and on the track there’s just no way to qualify without quitting the road,” he said then, according to the BBC.
But Cavendish returned to track cycling in August with a plan on competing in the omnium, a six-race event, to be eligible to qualify for the Olympic team if that’s the route he wanted to take in the next year.
“It’d be nice to have an Olympic medal, just to stop people banging on about it,” Cavendish said in August, according to British media.
An Olympic qualification attempt would be just that — an attempt with no certain spot available. Cavendish’s 2008 event, the madison, is no longer part of the Olympic program.
Great Britain selectors can only send one man to the Olympics in Cavendish’s new preferred event, the omnium. Cavendish may have to earn that spot over the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, Ed Clancy, who was also part of the nation’s gold medal-winning team pursuit squad in 2008 and 2012.
“I’ve got to be totally honest,” Great Britain team technical director Shane Sutton said in August, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s not going to be easy for [Cavendish].”
Cavendish is believed to narrow any gap to Clancy thanks to a tweak in the omnium format to favor his abilities, but British reports say the Olympic omnium man would also have to be part of the team pursuit squad, at least as a reserve rider. Cavendish’s team pursuit experience is limited.
“Look if it was the old omnium, as it was at the last Olympics, Ed would be going, 100 percent,” Cavendish said, according to the Telegraph.
Clancy prevailed in Cavendish’s return to the track in August.
“The preferred option is Ed Clancy as he is also the strongest guy in the team pursuit,” British cycling endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel said in an August Telegraph report. “The team pursuit is still our priority event. There are too many uncontrollables in the omnium. The team pursuit is controllable, and we will not make any sacrifices.”