After missing out at two consecutive Games - in 2008 and 2012 - the Dimension Data rider has one realistic chance of adding an Olympic medal to his palmares before retiring. After months of preparation, combining road and track training, the Games are almost upon him.
At the British Cycling holding camp in Newport, Wales, away from the pressure cooker environment of the Tour de France, Cavendish laid out his current position to a group of selected media, including Cyclingnews.
"On a mental point of view I'm on a bit of a high from the Tour. Not away in the clouds high and it's not like I'm going on a piss up for a week after the Tour de France but I know that the work I've put in is working. I know the work I've put in has been beneficial. What we've set out to do this year is played out. It gives you positive feelings for the next goals you have," Cavendish said, analytical and emotional in the same sentence.
At the start of the season Cavendish's goals were ambitious to say the least – most notably because the world of road sprinting has become so much more competitive. His targets were a successful Tour de France, an Olympic gold medal and then a world title on the road in Qatar.
This year's Tour de France was arguably his best ever, with four stage victories and the first yellow jersey of his distinguished career. He now holds the second best tally of 30 Tour de France stage wins, a feat that puts the careers of his sprint rivals such as Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel into perspective. Kittel has won nine stages at the Tour, Greipel 11.
Analysis of the Tour de France, fast twitch fibres for Rio
His departure from the Tour de France before the Alps, Cavendish says, came down to his legs and how his body was dealing with intense racing. The idea – suggested before the race- that he would leave the race at an agreed time between his British Cycling coaches and Dimension Data bosses was not a factor.
"If I'd have been over the limit on the third day I'd have stopped on the third day," he explained.
"If I'm honest, during the Pyrenees I thought I might get to Montpellier. I was dead in the Pyrenees. That week, as I always do on a Grand Tour, I always step up in the second week. I have done my whole career. I just kept going and kept going. The last two days, on the Sunday and Monday I was tired. I knew I was making a detrimental effect. I stayed for the rest day and went for a ride. If I'd gone out and I was floating, I would've carried on but I came back and I was tired. I couldn't push high power. Everyone's the same. It's when your body starts going catabolic that's not beneficial for the track."
There have been a number of arguments presented as to the reasons why Cavendish again dominated the sprints at the Tour de France. They range from the new team environment at Dimension Data, to his track training improving his sprint speed and bike skills. However before the Tour de France, few would have envisaged Cavendish wining four stages and Kittel and Greipel just one. But after triumphing on stage 1 at Utah Beach and pulling on the yellow jersey, Cavendish was on a roll. He couldn't stop winning.
"The results speak for themselves, I was pretty happy. I didn't know how it would go, but the plans, the route we took, it worked out. I'm not going to look back and make a big book out of it, say this is a the new training regime for winning stages of the Tour, I don't think it is, but definitely for what I wanted to achieve this year it seems to have worked out so far," he said.
Now the priority for Cavendish, who may also ride in the team pursuit, is transferring his road legs to the boards once more. He has made improvements after each previous transition and is well up on where he was during the World Championships back in February when he finished sixth in the Omnium event.
"It's not easy but I've been managing that all year. This is about making every single pedal rev count," he said with determination.
"The thing is I don't know how deep I went in the Tour, how much I used up my… How much of my fast twitch fibres are used up, I can't quickly get them active again on the track. I've only been on the track one day now. I'm getting straight on after here and see how it is."
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