Mark Cavendish’s ambitions to ride the Olympic Games remain in the balance, according to the rider and his coaches, after he finished sixth in the omnium at the UCI Track World Championships in London.
Cavendish finished 30 points down on winner Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) and missed out on a podium spot by the same figure, in what will be regarded as one of the best points races in the omnium’s short history.
Despite missing out on his goal of a podium place Cavendish pressed that his overall performance – which was two places down on his ride in at the Hong Kong World Cup – had improved and that the higher calibre field in London was a mark up from his previous outing.
“I’m actually not too disheartened with how it went,” Cavendish told the media after his warm-down after the points race.
The British coaching staff came into the race stating that if Cavendish failed to secure a podium place in London then the rider might rule himself out of contention for the one Olympic omnium spot available. Both parties distanced themselves from such a notion at the end of the event, stating that they would sit down in the coming days before making a decision. After Jon Dibben’s gold medal in the points race on Friday, and his improvements in the team pursuit, Cavendish and the team coaches face one of their most difficult decisions ahead of Rio.
“I didn’t make any real tactical errors across the entire omnium," said Cavendish. "My timed events let me down a bit. The kilo I actually did a good time it’s just that others went quicker than me. In the pursuit I got a little bit carried away with the crowd and if I’m honest I rode that pursuit like a junior.
“It’s down to the selectors,” he said of the Olympic spot, “but I know how much more I get from coming off the road, even from riding the Tour de France and the sensations that I get. Derby last year, the feelings I got after riding a Grand Tour were a lot different than the feelings that I got from right now.
“We’ll talk about it. I don’t know but we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I’ve seen massive gains since Hong Kong - definitely. That was an Olympic field and it’s not going to be any different at the Olympics. I don’t even think that the competition is going to be any harder there. We’ll have a talk with Shane [Sutton] and Heiko [Salzwedel] and see what happens.”
Related to Dibben’s improvements are the fact that the overall make-up of the team pursuit squad still has ground to make up. They have five slots for Rio and so far Cavendish has been untested in that area and, with the omnium spot to come from the pursuit squad, the selectors choice becomes even harder.
“We have a world class group of bike riders in British Cycling and a wealth of talent to choose from," said Cavendish. "First of all I wasn’t so sure of wanting to do the omnium here because you lot would only say that I could only fail but I wanted to ride the points knowing that the best riders here are riding the omnium.
"The best guys in the world are in the omnium and I was mixing it. I didn’t get beat by any shit kickers, which is really good. That was a world class field. I’m glad that I can mix it after not so much training.”