Cavendish in driving seat for Olympic Games selection

Mark Cavendish faces questions from the press

Mark Cavendish faces questions from the press

Mark Cavendish is in the driving seat to take the Omnium spot in the Great Britain track squad for the Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

The squad will finalised in June but Cavendish is set to be handed the chance to win a first Olympic medal after spending time training on the track at the national cycling centre in Manchester last week. After a block of racing on the road, which followed the Track World Championships in early March, the Manxman's return to the boards is a clear indication that he is still at the forefront of the British Cycling selectors' minds. 

Another factor may be that Jon Dibben, who became world champion in the points race - the most important event in the Omnium - last month, broke his elbow last week in a crash at the ZLM Roompot Toer. The 22-year-old is set to undergo surgery on it today [Tuesday], though British Cycling have told Cyclingnews that he could be back on his bike next week and that his "Rio ambitions remain unaffected".

Cavendish has made no secret of his desire to earn a place on the plane to Rio, and returned to the track last summer to kick off the process. Having based himself at the British national cycling centre in Manchester over the winter, he racked up the requisite qualification points in international competition and rode the Omnium at the Track Worlds in London at the start of March.

His performance there was meant to have a big impact on his possible selection, which also hinged on the fact that whoever got the Omnium spot would also have to act as the fifth member of the team pursuit squad. While Dibben contributed to the pursuit team's silver medal and won gold in the points race, Cavendish only managed sixth in the Omnium, though he did taste Madison gold alongside Bradley Wiggins. The headache for the British Cycling selectors was compounded by the return of Ed Clancy after a serious back injury, with the former Omnium world champion putting in a strong ride as part of the pursuit quartet for the final ride. 

"I have total confidence that Mark can do the job in TP [team pursuit]. I've always believed that. I don't think that comes into the question for me," said British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton after the Track Worlds.

"A lot of people say, 'are you diluting your TP medal opportunity?' I don't believe that at all. I believe Cav, from years and years ago, is a very good little TP-er and when he's on form I'm sure he can pull his weight. I haven't got any problems in that area at all."

Cavendish going to Rio would likely make the Tour de France a secondary focus, and Sutton has said that he would expect the 30-year-old pull out well before the race reaches its conclusion in Paris. While British Cycling would want Cavendish in best possible condition for the track, his Dimension Data road team would no doubt prefer if their star rider focused exclusively on the Tour, though the two parties are understood to be considerate of one another.

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