British track coach Heiko Salzwedel has said that Mark Cavendish must perform strongly at the next round of the Track World Cup in Hong Kong on January 16 and 17 in order to maintain his challenge for a place in the team at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Cavendish has spent much of the winter training on the track in Manchester in a bid to earn selection for Great Britain in the omnium ahead of London 2012 bronze medallist Ed Clancy and youngster Jon Dibben.
"Cavendish has to deliver in Hong Kong, full stop. I can't think of sentiment," Salzwedel told The Times newspaper. "We have a luxury problem. Three world-class omnium riders fighting for one spot. It's probably easier to win the Olympics than win selection."
The Manxman could ride the team pursuit as well as the omnium at the Hong Kong World Cup, and his selection for Rio could hinge in part on his ability to serve as fifth man in the team pursuit effort. Before travelling to Hong Kong, Cavendish will participate in a team pursuit event at the Revolution Series in Manchester at the weekend.
Cavendish was the sole British track rider not to win a medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he competed in the Madison alongside Bradley Wiggins, and he endured disappointment in the road race in London four years later.
One of the motivating factors behind Cavendish's decision to join Dimension Data for the coming season was that the South African squad has given its blessing to his efforts to combine his Olympic aspirations on the track with team duties on the road in 2016.
"He wants it very badly," Salzwedel said. "In 2008, Cavendish was the only Britain rider who had to sit in the cattle class without a medal. Everyone else [flew home] in business class. And then he had experience of the Olympics in 2012, seeing the magnitude of the event. I wouldn't call it a desperate attempt, but maybe it's his last chance."