Mark Cavendish’s future may not be set in stone, and if it is it certainly is not public knowledge, but should he decide to aim for the Rio Olympics in 2016, he will find no greater supporter that coach Shane Sutton.
Cavendish has not yet signed a contract with a trade team for 2016, while at the same time his options for competing in Rio are unresolved. The next few days, weeks and months will determine and shape the next phase in his career. In a recent interview with Cyclingnews he stressed the importance that the Tour de France held in his life and his heart but the chance to ride in Rio remains, realistically, his last chance to win an Olympic medal.
Sutton, who has masterminded success for Great Britain on the track, believes that the sprinter can do both and would in his words ‘love to see’ the rider try and force his way into the Great Britain men’s pursuit team.
“Cav and I have had a discussion with the coaches and we would love it if he put his hand up and wanted to fight for a team pursuit spot,” Sutton told Cyclingnews.
“He’s very special. He can go so fast and he’s won everything across the board. His palmares is one of the best out there and I honestly believe that if he was to apply himself he would be a definitive candidate but that’s a decision that Mark has to make himself. We don’t want to push people into corners.”
Cavendish grew as a track rider as part of the British under-23 Cycling Academy and tasted success on the boards long before his Tour stage wins began to tally up. In London in 2012 he raced on the road but spoke longingly about the option of racing on the track in 2016. He has used the track as part of his winter training and taken part in track races in the last 12 months.
Great Britain have on spot for the Omnium with Ed Clancy a strong candidate. It’s an event Cavendish may well suit, but instead Sutton believes that the sprinter has all the ingredients to be in the pursuit team.
“Ed is in the driving seat, he’s very special and Mark knows that he has his work cut out there. They’ve already had a few head to heads and there’s not a lot in it and that’s good but they know that if they go to Rio they’ll be going there on evidence,” Sutton told Cyclingnews, emphasising that reputation will not guarantee flights to Rio.
Great Britain do have strength in depth when it comes to the team pursuit but they must select five riders for the event at Rio. One potential scenario could see Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Mark Cavendish, Owain Doull, Steven Burke make the team with Clancy or Cavendish racing the Omnium. However that’s’ just one of many possibilities, with the track endurance squad bristling with talent.
“We’ll take the best bike riders. Some of the times Mark has been running in training have been so fast and I’ve said it for the last three years that if there are two guy who can come back to the track and do this job, it’s Wiggins and Cavendish.”
Wiggins working to be part of Rio team
As for Wiggins, according to Sutton, he continues to impress in training. The former Tour de France winner has had a transition of a season in some ways but also set a new UCI Hour Record, started his own team, and found his feet once more on the track.
“A lot of people use the word adapt but I don’t think he’s had to adapt to what he’s doing. He’s a bike rider first and foremost. I would say that he’s slotted into the place that he left on the track four years ago but we’ve a lot of talent and there’s upward pressure on him at this moment in time to make that track time.”
Some of that pressure comes from the pool of riders the British coaches have to draw on. For example, Owain Doull finished third overall at the Tour of Britain last week – with the help of Wiggins and the WIGGINS team – and on Monday he finished fifth in the U23 time trial at Worlds.
“Yesterday was a prime example with Doull running fifth in the time trial, and that was a really good performance from him as he’s not a specialist.”
“It’s not a walk in the park for Brad. I know him very well and he’s really applying himself. I’m quite sure that he’s going to be on that plane to Rio. Whether he’s in the starting line-up I don’t know, because that will be down to the coach and the selectors and it will be an evidence-based decision. He’s slotted back in well, he’s great to have around the team and they’ve lifted themselves because they know that they can train with one of the best bike riders of all time.”
Whatever Great Britain’s selection for the team pursuit and Omnium, Sutton is convinced that the Rio squad will be as strong as possible.
“I’m 100 per cent convinced from the chair that I’m in that we’ll go to Rio and know that we’re at the races. You can't be governed by the others but I know that we’ll go there as the best we’ve ever been. Whether that’s enough to win, I don’t know.”