“I want to represent my country at the highest level and win, ultimately,” said Mark Cavendish, explaining his desire to win an Olympic gold medal in the omnium. He told Sky Sports that anything other than gold would be a disappointment, adding: “I think I’m setting myself up that if I didn’t win, I’ve failed.”
“I don’t feel it was my fault,” he said about his two previous Olympics – neither of which resulted in a medal. “I was in the best form I could be and I truly believe that in Beijing I was the strongest rider on the track; London we were the strongest team in the race and extraordinary factors meant I didn’t get those medals when I’d done everything right leading up to them.”
An Olympic medal is one of Cavendish’s remaining career goals and he was keen to stress how important it was to him to represent Great Britain.
“As a professional cyclist, the Olympics isn’t that important – especially on the track, if you’re a road professional. It doesn’t get you a contract anywhere. It doesn’t rank really in the top races of the professional cycling calendar.
“But as a British athlete, it’s a big thing. I’m proud to be British. I’m proud to represent the flag I was born under and every time I pull on that jersey and represent the country it’s a big, big thing for me. And the Olympics is the biggest thing you can do that at.”
It also seems likely that the omnium will be Cavendish’s sole opportunity to win that elusive Olympic medal. As fifth man for the team pursuit, he admitted he was very much a reserve and probably wouldn’t ride unless something happened to one of the first-choice quartet.
On the prospect of his having to step in, he hinted that the other riders would see this as a weakening of the team’s medal prospects. Speaking with a smile, he said: “Especially Brad, he has been super stressed. He wants to be the hero and all that. I’m kind of just doing the omnium stuff now.”
He did however admit that he would have prepared for the Olympics differently if he’d have known in advance that he was unlikely to be involved.
“That’s the reason I left the Tour early, because of the team pursuit. [For] the omnium, finishing the Tour would’ve been a benefit.”
Admitting that the situation was a little bit disappointing, he emphasised that the team pursuit was ‘a bonus’ anyway and that the omnium remained his main goal.