British Cycling’s chief executive Ian Drake has told Sir Bradley Wiggins that reputation is no guarantee of selection for the British Olympic team at Rio in 2016.
Wiggins, aged 33, hopes to ride the team pursuit with the aim of picking up a fifth Olympic gold medal.
He was a member of the victorious Team GB quartet at Beijing in 2008, where he also successfully defended the individual pursuit title he had won in Athens four years earlier.
Last year, less than a fortnight after becoming the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, he won the time trial on the road at London 2012.
Speaking at the launch of British Cycling’s new four-year strategy earlier this week, which includes a target of equalling or beating the London medal haul at Rio, Drake said that Wiggins would have to fight for his place like everyone else.
“The fact you have Bradley saying he wants to come back and do that is great news for the sport but competition is really high which is a great place for us to be,” he said, quoted in the Lancashire Telegraph.
“The strength in depth of athletes that we have got now is phenomenal.
“Everyone who pulls on the Great Britain jersey now knows they are in a fight for those places.
“People have to earn that jersey. You only have to look at what happened in terms of selections for London 2012 with Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy.”
With a change in rules meaning only one rider per country permitted in each individual track event at London, Hoy, winner of the individual sprint and keirin at Beijing, only rode the latter at last year's Olympic Games.
The event saw him clinch his sixth career gold medal to become Great Britain’s most successful Olympian. Kenny triumphed in the individual sprint and, together with Philip Hindes, the pair also won in the team sprint.
Explaining the selection process, Drake said: “It was on ‘who is best placed to win these medals’.
“Those decisions are made purely on performance basis and podium performances, not what has been done historically.”
Ahead of the UCI Track Cycling Classics World Cup in Manchester at the start of this month, two members of the Team GB quartet that won gold in the team pursuit at London warned Wiggins and Mark Cavendish that they couldn’t expect to walk into the line-up.
Cavendish was said to harbour hopes of riding in the event at Rio as he seeks his first Olympic medal.
He was the only British track rider not to win one in Beijing, where he rode the Madison with Wiggins, and he also missed out in London last year where he started the road race as a strong favourite.
Ed Clancy and Stephen Burke said that the pair would have to fully commit themselves to the track rather than the road and prove that they deserved a place on merit if they were to make the Olympic team in 2016.
Subsequently, Cavendish has played down his ambitions of riding on the track at Rio, quoted by Sky Sports as saying: “I'm a professional on the road. I ride for a pro road team and, ultimately, that is where my loyalties lie.
"If I'm able to do, I would like to think about it, but I have got no solid plans.
“I want to keep myself in the frame, but there are also guys that put 100 per cent of their time into the track and it is beneficial to British Cycling if those guys get their chance."
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.