By Friday of this week MTN – Qhubeka will know if they have been selected for the UCI WorldTour but that hasn’t stopped the team from deciding to fully back Mark Cavendish’s dreams of Olympic glory in 2016.
Cavendish will ride for the team – known as Dimension Data next season - after moving from Etixx-QuickStep this autumn. The Olympic Games are a significant aim for the sprinter who is looking to win his first medal of any kind at Olympic level. His most likely path to Olympic selection is through the Great Britain endurance track squad, with Cyclingnews learning Saturday that Cavendish will ride the Omnium in January’s World Cup event in Hong Kong.
Any desires to race at the Games would ideally need the backing and support of a rider’s trade team and Doug Ryder of MTN – Qhubeka is fully behind his new signing.
“We are supportive of any rider’s ambitions to do significant things. The Olympic Games is a priority, it’s the greatest event and it only takes place every four years. Mark has really strong ambitions for that. We’ll have more discussions about it at our training camp next week but Mark seems really focused on it and he’s always said that the team’s road ambitions comes first but I’ve been to the Games and it’s such a special event and one that you never want to hold a rider back from,” Ryder told Cyclingnews from his home in South Africa.
“I think some pros today don’t value those iconic events,” he added.
“If you look at the medals that someone like Bradley Wiggins has won, those are incredible achievements and shouldn’t be underrated. It’s one per cent of one per cent who go to the Games and it’s the best against the best.”
Although Ryder would fully support Cavendish’s plans much of the rider’s race programme will be determined by the team’s licence status for next year. They have raced under the Pro Continental banner in recent years but it is expected - although not yet confirmed – that they will rise into cycling’s elite tier of WorldTour for 2016. Such a move would confirm their place in races such as the Tour Down Under, a race Cavendish has used to open his season with in the past. Ryder and his star signing will sit down at the team’s camp later this month – once the team’s status is secured – and thrash out a plan that dovetails their road and track ambitions.
“Next week is a big week for us in terms of discussions with the UCI and the WorldTour. The next week is the biggest week we’ve ever had in terms of our future. We want to get through next week with everything looking rosy. Then we’ll know what our race calendar is really like, and we’ll see Mark in a week to go through his race programme. So by the end of the month we’ll be pretty certain on around 85 per cent of his race programme for next year.”
“He’ll go to Hong Kong and then maybe the Dubai Tour but I have to look at the dates. Race organisers are contacting us almost every day now saying that they want Cavendish here and there, and he’s pretty sought after but we’ll see.”
Cavendish is currently in Tenerife for a training camp with the Great Britain endurance track team. He has raced on the track in the last six months and Ryder also believes that the return to the boards could improve the Manxman’s turn of speed. It’s on the track where Cavendish first made a name for himself as a promising up-and-coming sprinter.
“I think that track racing is good for him. He went from the track to HTC and was super fast. He’s aged a little bit but with age comes experience. I think the track will give Mark an extra percentage of speed and he’s super motivated. I don’t know him that well, and I’ve only met him over the last few months but he’s super motivated to come to our team and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gels with the squad.”