In a wide ranging interview that also touched on David Millar, and the subject of drug testing in cycling and other sports Mark Cavendish has said that his changes in diet and training in preparation for the 2012 Olympics may make him less competitive in the Tour de France this year. But the prestige of winning gold in London is worth the sacrifice.
"In cycling the Olympics doesn't rank highly, it is not a prestigious event, but as a Great Britain athlete to compete for the flag I was born under, is a big thing,” Cavendish said at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast Club Tuesday morning.
"It brings extra motivation. That is why I am changing [my training]. I will not be as successful in the Tour de France as I have been in the past.”
Nevertheless, the Cav Confidence we've come to know and love was still in evidence.
"I will win stages but I may not win five. My sprint has suffered a little bit, but the guys who are sprinters, like I was, won't be there in the [Olympic road race] finish.”
Cavendish sees the clmb of Box Hill as the crux of the Olympic road race route. “The Olympic organisers originally had a flatter route but it was rejected by the UCI. If Box Hill was in the Tour de France, it would not even be categorised as a climb. So one time of Box Hill, it's not categorised. Four times, yes, you're starting to feel the hill. Six, seven. Hmmmm. And nine times, yes, it's a climb.”
And it will be selective. "It is not going to be a bunch sprint at the end. There will be a group of less than 50 riders at the finish and I have to be there with those guys."
Cavendish also gave more details of the recent changes to his diet and training that have seen him lose 4 kilograms with the aim of making himself he kind of well-rounded rider who has a chance at the Games. And for the first time in his career, he's paying attention to coaches and sports scientists.
He said: "I never used to listen to a sports scientist who would tell me how to train when they hadn't ever been on a bike. They used to do all these tests and come back to me and say 'you're ****'. They shouldn't compare me with someone else. I am a different rider. The sports scientists we have now are fantastic so my training is more controlled. But I still have certain rules of my own. I won't cross the same road twice during a ride.
"I have a bowl of Special K in the morning with rice milk. My body responds well to rice and Special K is made of rice. Then I go out and ride anywhere between 2 hours and 7 hours, 60 to 200 kilometres per day. I vary my training, Last week in Italy I did an 11km hill climb five times."
His recent overall victory in the Ster ZLM Toer last week demonstrated he's on the right track. "It was a benchmark in my career. I knew it was possible to do. It is absolutely important [to have won stage race in the Olympic run-up].”
"I am so much faster than the others anyway I can afford to lose a few per cent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line. It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics."
The British team in London may include repentant drug user David Millar who has said he will be available for the Games. "It is not for me to comment on the decision of the court but Millar is, I would say, more than essential to the road race team and I'm delighted he will be available," said Cavendish.
On the subject of drugs, Cavendish said he believes cycling is cleaner than it has been in the past
"There's less [doping] now because everybody knows it's impossible," he said."Cycling wants a clean and fair sport, and I'll stick my neck on the line and say that other sports would sweep it under the carpet."
Cavendish put cycling's apparently high incidence of drug use down to improved detection. "If any organisation puts the time, the effort and the money into catching those cheats, they'll catch the cheats. Now cycling does that. It catches the cheats, so there's more positive cases."
Despite targeting the Olympics, Cavendish is still taking the Tour seriously, but joining Team Sky means the structure around him has changed.
"Always in the past I have had a team dedicated to me, and Bradley has always had a team dedicated to him. But this time it will be different for both of us. They won't be specialists as they have been before," he said.
"Doing both the Olympics and the Tour isn't easy but it is possible. The Tour is my job. Commercially if a sponsor puts in money the Tour de France is the big deal so I have to do it. I want to do it. It is what my season's about. I have to display my sponsor's logo. There's no better way to display your sponsor's logo than going over the line with your hands in the air."
"I am so much faster than the others anyway, I can afford to lose a few per cent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line," he said. "It is worth it this one year, especially when the team is concentrating on the GC (general classification). It is worth doing that for the Olympics."
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.