British Cycling has confirmed that David Millar, Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Ian Stannard will be the riders supporting Mark Cavendish as he bids for Olympic gold in the men's road race at London 2012 on Saturday 28 July. Millar was cleared to race in the Olympics earlier this year following the scrapping of the British Olympic Associations life ban for athletes banned for a doping offence. Other than Stannard, who won the British road race championship last month, all of the other team members are currently racing in the Tour de France. Froome, rather than Millar - winner of a silver medal in the world time trial championship in 2010 - will join Wiggins in the individual time trial.
Millar's inclusion in the squad comes 12 years after his only appearance for Great Britain in the Olympics at Sydney in 2000 where he finished a disappointing 16th in the individual time trial. He had been due to compete for Great Britain in the 2004 Games in Athens, but in June that year his career fell apart after his arrest by French police while he was at dinner in Biarritz with British Cycling Performance Director Dave Brailsford, followed by the discovery of two used syringes in his apartment and his subsequent confession.
If Millar's name featuring in the final list of five riders is bound to cause controversy - BMC Racing's Steven Cummings and Team Sky's Ben Swift and Jeremt Hunt are the three from the preliminary squad who miss out, and there are still question marks over Millar's form after an absence enforced by the Scot breaking his collarbone in March - Chris Froome's nomination as one of the two riders in the time trial alongside Wiggins may also give rise to debate.
Millar, stripped of the world title he had won in 2003 when he received his two-year ban the following year, is the Commonwealth champion, and last year won the final stage of the Giro d'Italia in Milan; Froome himself is one of Britain's top riders in the discipline - he was second to an in-form Tony Martin, soon to be world champion, during the time trial in Salamanca in last year's Vuelta, the team Sky man taking the race leader's jersey that day. The previous year, Froome had been second to Wiggins in the British national time trial championship.
The absence of Ben Swift, another rider returning from injury, also deprives Great Britain of a potential Plan B should the race nget broken up as it heads round those nine circuits of Box Hill, with the Yorkshireman potentially able to get into a break ad contest the final sprint on the Mall; if the race stays together, he was also an obvious leadout choice for Cavendish, although as the world champion demonstrated in Tournai on Monday, no-one is better at using an opponent as an unwilling leadout.
Andy Hunt, Team GB Chef de Mission, commented: “With just 23 days left before the Olympic Games begins, it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome these five road cyclists into Team GB to complete the selections for cycling across all disciplines.
“Team GB proved in 2008 that our country is a world leader in the sport of cycling. The men that have been selected today to compete in the Road Race and Time Trial have a huge amount of potential, and will be hoping to get Team GB off to a flying start with success on day one of the Games.
“In Bradley Wiggins we have a cyclist that already knows all about Olympic success with three gold medals on the track to his name, and in Mark Cavendish we have an athlete that continues to climb the ladder towards the cycling greats as he consistently proved his speed and class over the last two years. To have their presence in the squad is a huge boost and their leadership will be important to the team as a whole in London.
“We have fantastic street circuits in London for the two men’s road events and the massive home crowd that will turn out to see our cyclists across every inch of the route will add a real psychological boost and hopefully push them on to glory.”
British Cycling Performance Director and Team GB Cycling Team Leader Dave Brailsford added: “The final selection for the men’s road race was a tough choice as we had a really strong squad of riders to pick from. We have selected the five riders who we believe are on the best form and will give us the fastest team for the race. All the riders selected have a gruelling few weeks coming up, with Ian [Stannard] due to ride in the Tour of Poland and the rest of the lads riding in the Tour de France, so we’ll be keeping an eye on injury and form but for now, I am confident that we have picked the best team for the race.”
Wiggins, who currently lies second overall in the Tour de France and already has three Olympic golds on the track, said: “I’m happy to be a part of it, we’ve got a good chance to win the road race with Cav and it’s a London Olympics which makes it very special. I’ve also got a chance to go for my fourth gold medal in the time trial.”
Froome, a key member of the Team Sky line-up supporting Wiggins in France, added: “It’s a great feeling to be selected, the Olympics is one event I’ve always wanted to go to. The course looks challenging – the laps around Box Hill are going to be hard and will make the race interesting. We’ll be there with Cav to support him and it should be a really good course for us. It’s huge to compete at home – the British support out here at the Tour de France has been amazing and I can only imagine it'll be even bigger at home. If it’s anything like the test event, it will be a big spectacle for the public to come and watch.”
Ian Stannard commented: “It feels great to have been selected for my first Olympic Games, and it’s even better to know that we’ve got the support of the home crowd behind us. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the race and giving Mark as much support as possible on the day.”
Don't forget that of you want to cheer on Cavendish and his team mates from the roadside later this month, you can join us at the weekend long Surrey Hills Road Race Festival at Denbies Wine Estate, right by the Box Hill circuit.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.