Mark Cavendish will return to the track at Derby’s new velodrome this weekend as part of his bid for Rio success in 2016. Cavendish has won 26 Tour de France stages and the 2011 world road title, but Olympic gold has thus far proven elusive.
Cavendish will be riding the Madison event in which he was twice world champion in Derby, but he is also looking forward to trying the omnium.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said:
“I’ve always maintained that my focus is my performances on the road as a professional rider for Etixx-Quick Step. However if there was any chance, however small, that I could be in a position to go for an Olympic medal in Rio then I have to keep all of my options open.
"No definitive decisions have been made yet. So I will try to do this through picking up qualification points in the omnium fitted around my road racing schedule. The omnium is a tough event with all the different disciplines so Derby will be a good test and we’ll see how things progress from there.”
Riders need 90 UCI track ranking points by September 15 to qualify to race the World Cup series of track meetings with up to 80 points available to Cavendish at Derby. British Cycling endurance head coach, Heiko Salzwedel, said he was surprised by how determined the Manxman was to take part.
"He has some unfinished business back from 2008 in his mind. He really wants to go to Rio with the track team and really wants to go 100 per cent focused on the omnium. He doesn't come in saying 'we'll see how it goes', it's clear in his mind, his focus and priorities. The Olympics is where Mark wants to be in 12 months’ time."
The Derby leg of the Revolution Series, taking place from August 14-16, has come about partly as a result of the personal and financial backing of Sir Dave Brailsford. Sir Bradley Wiggins will also return to the Great Britain Cycling Team for the event and both he and Cavendish will be part of an endurance line-up which also includes current Olympic champions Ed Clancy and Steven Burke, as well as Jon Dibben, Mark Christian, Owain Doull and Andy Tennant.
British Cycling technical director, Shane Sutton, told the Manchester Evening News that both Cavendish and Wiggins would have to earn an Olympic place.
"It is looking on, but it is down to Mark at the end of the day. We are all looking forward to embracing the opportunity of having him back in the track squad. It enhances the squad massively, as does Brad being there – having two of the best bike riders in the history of British cycling on board for the Rio journey.
"But like Brad, Cav has to make it, and he has his work cut out. I believe Cav, given his pedigree, has the tools to do the job, but it won't be easy.
“And Brad stepping back into the squad only adds strength to it, although there are no guarantees he will be in the final team pursuit line-up. He has to work for that place like everyone else has. He can make the team – if anyone can, Brad can. But that is not going to be easy either, and he knows that."