Mark Cavendish's track career is over. The Olympic Madison in Beijing was his last track race and the repercussions of that race could also have implications for plans to put a British Tour team together… well, one that has Cavendish in it anyway.
In an excellent interview with Tim Lewis of the Observer Sports Monthly magazine Cavendish revealed that the pulling out of this year's Tour after stage 14 so that he would be fresh for the Olympics was " the biggest regret of my career". By pulling out Cavendish missed out on the chance of winning the green jersey and the sprint on the Champs Elyseés.
"At first after the Olympics I was pissed at Brad… but if he's made to train for 4k, for sure he's not going to be good at 50k. And they [British Cycling] were all about the team pursuit and he just had to train at 4k. In training, they would just ignore me me while they time the team pursuiters going round. The trained so much for that they forgot the Madison – well, they didn't forget the Madison, they didn't give a shit
"That's not fair when I have given that much commitment to it. I left the Tour de France – the biggest bike race in the world – when I was fighting for the green jersey and I could have potentially won on the Champs Elyseés, and it makes me bitter that they didn't give back what I'd given to them. "
In the interview Cavendish is also pretty clear about how he rates success on the track. While making it clear that he is not criticising riders such as Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins he says: " The track for me is easy success and for other people it is easy success which is real nice… It's nice to indulge and get easy success, you are not going to turn it down. But yeah, after a while, if it is easy and it keep coming, do something different."
He goes on to point out that "Every nation in the world does road cycling, but on the track if you took Great Britain out, it is not so strong."
Cavendish's comments on track success are echoed by Nicole Cooke in an interview with the same paper in which she points out that there were 60 starters for the women's road race in Beijing and only 12 for the women's sprint.
It is ironic that in a year when Britain's track cyclists have been so amazingly successful the two biggest cycling achievements by Britons were on the road: Cavendish's four stage wins at the Tour and his double from the Giro and Cooke's double of gold in the Olympic road race and triumph at the world championships ( a feat no other rider from any nation has ever achieved).
It is pretty clear that the two most successful British road riders of their generation are very much on the outside of things when it comes to Team GB and British Cycling (indeed Cavendish may simply be out), tellingly or not, Cooke was not in the film the BBC posted last week of them filming Britain's Olympic cycling team… riding on the road.
The powers that be at British Cycling will probably not be that chuffed about many of Cavendish's comments the jibe about "easy success" is unlikely to trouble them unduly: the lack of international strength in depth in track racing is precisely why British Cycling focused its efforts and resources on the velodrome rather than the road.
While there's no doubt that Cavendish seems intent on verbally burning his bridges with British Cycling and then dynamiting the smouldering remains. He does still have Olympic ambitions for London 2012, in the road race, and as long as he stays fit and winning (and British Cycling has some wonder-kid in waiting) his starting place must be pretty certain.
"The gamble that didn't pay off" as Chris Boardman describes the strategy for the Olympic Madison is likely to have two consequences. The first will be relatively easy to deal with – putting a new Madison duo together. The second is likely to be more problematical – where does all this leave British Cycling's plans to put together a team to compete in and eventually win the Tour de France?
In the short to medium and even in to the long term (he is only 23) Mark Cavendish would seem to be the man they need to build the team around, he's a proven stage winner, and he will have more than a passing chance of winning one or more green jerseys in the coming years. Such winning ways (17 races last season) means he won't ever be short of potential employers and given the feelings he has expressed about his Olympic treatment how likely is it that he will be signing up with the people he feels betrayed him in Beijing at the cost of the big money and even bigger kudos he could have won by staying at the Tour?
"If the Olympics didn't happen… what I've done in cycling this year is pretty fucking phenomenal. So the Olympics, I was doing it as a favour to British Cycling for helping me. Winning the Olympics will do fuck all for my cycling career. If I want to be a celebrity or go on breakfast TV, it would do a hell of a lot form my career, but it would do nothing for my cycling career."
road.cc's founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.