Mark Cavendish’s hopes of riding the omnium at the Rio Olympics this summer appear to be over after he finished sixth in the event at the UCI Track World Championships yesterday evening – although Great Britain technical director Shane Sutton insisted afterwards that no decision had been made yet.
Last week, Sutton said that Cavendish needed to secure a podium place at the worlds to guarantee his seat on the flight to Rio.
But while the Manxman managed to secure points in some of the sprints in the points race that concluded the omnium, he was closely marked and proved unable to gain the lap that could have seen him secure a medal.
After the event, won by defending champion Fernando Gaviria of Colombia, Sutton reflected on Cavendish’s performance, telling the BBC: “His name didn’t help him, being the greatest road sprinter of all time. He had a big number on his back all night.
“We’ll sit down and discuss where he goes from here. He and his coach will look at the analysis from this week and decide.”
He added: “Emotions are high and he has to refocus for the Madison on Sunday. At the end of the day he didn’t get the result he wanted.”
This afternoon’s Madison, which will feature in BBC2’s live coverage from 2pm to 6pm, sees Cavendish reunited with Sir Bradley Wiggins for an event in which the pair won the rainbow jersey at Manchester in 2008.
In Beijing later that year – the last time the Madison was an Olympic event – the pair finished out of the medals and at London 2012, where Cavendish was favourite to win the road race, he missed out as a strong group of riders got away on the final ascent of Box Hill.
After completing the omnium yesterday, Cavendish said: “Hopefully I did enough. I don't know, we're incredibly lucky in Britain that we've got a strong group of guys."
It’s that strength in the men’s endurance squad, however, that will play a major factor in whether or not he makes the Olympic team, and the odds are stacked against him.
Olympic qualification criteria mean that the rider selected for the omnium also needs to be the fifth man for the team pursuit squad.
For that reason Jon Dibben – winner of the points gold medal on Friday, and a much stronger pursuiter than Cavendish, helping Great Britain put in the fastest qualification time for the team pursuit on Wednesday – is likely to get the place.
Sir Bradley Wiggins and Ed Clancy, winner of omnium bronze at London 2012 but who is focused now on the team pursuit, seem definites for Rio, leaving Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Andy Tennant, all of whom rode the event this week, fighting for the other two spots.
While their seasons are built around Rio, Cavendish will be riding the Tour de France for Dimension Data beforehand.
Making him in effect the reserve for the team pursuit squad would therefore seem an uncharacteristic gamble on the part of Team GB in an event in which, on this week’s showing, the country has a realistic Olympic gold medal chance.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.