Mark Cavendish has revealed that he will not be riding the team pursuit at the Olympic Games – so long as the first-choice quartet remain fit – and hinted that Bradley Wiggins pushed for him to stay away.
Cavendish's main aim in Rio is the Omnium, but his selection for the multi-event competition meant he also took on the role of fifth man in the team pursuit. Squads often rotate riders across the various rounds of competition, but Great Britain will only call upon Cavendish as a contingency against injury or illness to Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Owain Doull, or Steven Burke.
"I think the lads have been training together and they want to try and do…if something happens to them then I'll ride," Cavendish explained in an interview with Sky Sports' Orla Chennaoui. "Especially Brad has been super stressed – he wants to be the hero and all that. I’m kind of just doing the Omnium stuff now I think."
He described it as a "little bit" of a disappointment, revealing that if it wasn't for the team pursuit he wouldn't have pulled out of the Tour de France on the second rest-day.
"If I'm honest, that's the reason I left the Tour early – because of the team pursuit. For the Omnium, finishing the Tour would have been a benefit," said Cavendish.
"At the end of the day I qualified for the Olympics for the Omnium anyway, so I'll concentrate on the Omnium. That's what I was aiming for the whole time. The team pursuit was a bonus to that anyway."
Cavendish has a score to settle with the Games, an Olympic medal being the only real missing item on his extraordinary palmares.
In Beijing he and Wiggins, who had already won two medals, flopped in the Madison and he suffered the ignominy of being the only British track rider to leave without a medal. Four years later he tried to right the wrong in the road race in London but the British team's attempts to almost single-handedly control proceedings to bring about a sprint proved fruitless.
"Both times, I don't feel you can easily say 'ah you're making excuses' – I don't think feel it was my fault," said Cavendish. "I know everyone says that if they don't win but I was at the best form I could have been, and I truly believe that in Beijing I was the strongest ride on the track and in London we were strongest team in the race. Extraordinary factors meant I didn't get the medals, when I'd done everything right leading up to them."
At 31, this is probably his last real chance to get his hands on that elusive medal.
"Either it's third time lucky or it's not mean to be," he concluded.
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