Mark Cavendish made his return to the track on Saturday evening and got the ball rolling in his bid for Olympic glory next year.
The sprinter is determined to earn selection for the omnium in Rio and made a competitive outing in the discipline at the Revolution Series opener in Derby, though it is clear there is an uphill struggle ahead of him. With only one spot available per country, Cavendish will have to prove himself to be stronger than Ed Clancy, a former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist in the omnium who leads proceedings in Derby at the halfway stage.
Cavendish himself sits third, 16 points behind Clancy, having placed 11th in the opening scratch race, second in the 4-kilometre individual pursuit, and fourth in the elimination race. He stole an early lap in the scratch race but was a marked man for much of it, while his chances in the elimination race looked good until he was knocked out for crossing the blue line. That race had to be neutralised on two occasions after crashes and Cavendish had a frank exchange of words with Spaniard Unai Elorriaga.
My 1st UCI ranked elimination race last night (I've ridden non-ranked). Blows my mind such a dangerous race features in an Olympic event.— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) August 16, 2015
The Revolution Series represents a first step for British riders in their bids to earn selection for the Olympic Games next summer. On offer are the qualifying points needed for the winter's Track World Cup events, which would lead onto the World Championships and finally Rio. Great Britain endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel is on man Cavendish needs to impress and the German admits the Manxman has plenty of work to do.
"That was tough for Cav because, while every other country is racing as a team, for us it’s a selection race and it was every man for himself," Salzwedel told the Guardian.
"But that’s perfect, in a way. There were 11 current or previous world and Olympic champion sprinters out there, and the standard was incredible. Cav is one of the fastest riders on the road but the track is very different; technique and timing are very important and he hasn’t really had the time to work on those yet. But he can make it up."
The omnium continues on Sunday evening and concludes with the points race, which is afforded heavier weighting in the revamped format. Cavendish is also lining up alongside Bradley Wiggins in the madison for the first time since their disappointment at the 2008 Olympics, where Cavendish felt let down and came away as the only British track cyclist without a medal.