Omega Pharma-Quick Step boss bans Mark Cavendish from track racing
Rio medal dream all but over as Patrick Lefevere tells Cav to focus on the road
Mark Cavendish’s team manager at Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Patrick Lefevere, says he must concentrate on the road, not the track, effectively putting an end to any hopes the rider may have of winning an Olympic medal in 2016.
Cavendish has expressed interest in riding for Team GB as part of its team pursuit line-up at Rio in three years’ time, when the country is hoping to win gold in that event for the third Olympics in succession.
In September, he raced on the track at the International Belgian Open in Ghent to pick up enough UCI points to ensure future eligibility for track events.
But in an article published in Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblat and reported on the Sky Sports website, Lefevere has made it clear that Cavendish, who has two years left to run on his contract with the team, must focus on the road.
"We pay him to perform well on the road and he must concentrate fully on that," the Belgian said.
Lefevere blocked Cavendish from racing at the Six Days of Ghent currently taking place, partly because of fears of injury.
"Two riders crashed out on the first night of the Ghent Six,” he explained.
“What if Mark had been one of them?
“What's more, racing on the track makes preparing for next season more complex.
“I can tolerate the track with [Iljo] Keisse and [Niki] Terpstra, but not with Cavendish.
"You can never say never, but this year it didn't happen and it won't happen next year either.
"As long as we pay Mark, I don't want him on the track. He has enough time to do it with another team."
Cavendish has competed for Team GB at the past two Olympic Games but unlike most of his team mates is yet to secure a medal.
After winning four stages in the 2008 Tour de France, he cut short his participation in that race to prepare for the Beijing Olympics, where he partnered Bradley Wiggins in the Madison.
The pair were the reigning world champions in the event, starting favourites but only finishing ninth, and did not speak for months afterwards.
Cavendish reportedly felt Wiggins, who had already won two gold medals at those Olympics, wasn’t focused enough on the Madison.
In London last year, Cavendish again started an Olympic event as favourite, this time in the road race.
After riding at the front for most of the race, Team GB were unable to prevent a large breakaway group from getting away on the final lap of Box Hill as Cavendish’s dreams of gold once again slipped away.
The route of the road race at Rio 2016 is unlikely to suit sprinters such as Cavendish, with details contained in the city’s successful bid document indicating a much tougher parcours than at London last year.
Days after missing out on a medal at the road race, Cavendish watched fellow Manxman Peter Kennaugh plus Ed Clancy, Stephen Burke and Geraint Thomas win team pursuit gold in the Olympic Park’s velodrome.
Afterwards, he was reported in the Guardian as saying: "I watched the guys and looked at the camaraderie and thought 'I want to be part of that again'.
"I've spoken to the coach [Dan Hunt] this morning. I don't think a road race would suit me too well around Rio but I'd love an Olympic gold and to share it with the guys I've grown up with. I'd like to push for a position at Rio in 2016.
"I'd like to be part of the team pursuit because I thrive working with other people, gaining their trust. I enjoy working like that and that's what I aim to do."
More recently, he has acknowledged that his focus has to be on the road, saying earlier this month: "I'm a professional on the road. I ride for a pro road team and ultimately that is where my loyalties lie."
Wiggins, winner of team pursuit gold in Beijing, has said he would like to win a fifth Olympic title in Rio as part of the squad.
But last week, British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said that the team for Rio would be chosen entirely on merit, not reputation.