There isn't much that Mark Cavendish hasn't won but one glaring omission on his palmarès is an Olympic medal. He has been a favourite for a gold medal in the past two Games but luck has conspired against him. Cavendish, who recently signed for Dimension Data, is now targeting a return to the Great Britain track team for Rio 2016 in the hope that he can fill that final gap in his CV.
"To be fair," Cavendish told the Telegraph newspaper, "it has got to the point that even if it's in synchronised swimming… an Olympic medal is the only thing I'm missing. I'm 30 years old. I want these challenges. The last few years I've been doing the same stuff."
Cavendish's desire to earn that spot on the British squad has led him to consider renting a house in Manchester where the National Cycling Centre is based. "I need to look at how many days I will be up there but it will be a lot," said Cavendish. "It might be worth renting to be honest. Nicer than staying in hotels all the time."
There are two potential openings for Cavendish in the British squad, in the omnium and in the team pursuit. Over the past months, Cavendish has been working towards gaining qualification points for the 2015-16 World Cup series and subsequently the Games in Rio. He competed in the omnium at the opening round of the Revolution and then competed in Dudenhofen GP, qualifying him for the World Cup. He now just needs 10 points to qualify for an Olympic spot.
He still needs to be selected for the team and that means going head to head with Ed Clancy, an Olympic and world champion in the team pursuit and a bronze medallist in the Omnium. Cavendish knows that it won't be easy. "It's no formality," he said. "That's what people have to understand. Ed is a brilliant rider. I can't just say: 'I'm doing the Olympics.' But at least the door is open.
"Me and Ed speak all the time. He actually helped me out in Derby (at the Revolution). He could have got some extra points on me but he was brilliant. I've been straight with him and he's been straight with me. I don't want to get the ride because of my history in cycling or who I am or whatever. I don't want any favours. I want to get it because I am the best man for the job.
"If it was the old omnium, as it was at the last Olympics, Ed would be going, 100 per cent. The reason I'm even going for Rio is because of the points race. It really suits me." The 2016 Olympic omnium is made up of the points race, elimination race, scratch race – an event that Cavendish has won a Commonwealth gold medal in – the individual pursuit, time trial and flying lap.
Cavendish, who is a former double national champion in the team pursuit, in 2004 and 2005, does not want to go half bore when it comes to his preparation. He is currently recovering from shoulder surgery he received as a consequence of his Tour of Britain crash but plans to get back on the boards as soon as possible.
"I'm going to do some efforts with them. I'm built for it. But you need to commit so much time… It's more that I don't want to let down the team [pursuit squad]. Even if you did half the training that the other guys do, to come into a group that works that hard together… I've never been like that. I appreciate working hard as a group."
If having an Olympic medal on his mantelpiece wasn't incentive enough, he has one more very good motivation to push him on. "I was talking to Brad [Wiggins] about this in Derby," said Cavendish. "The main reason I want an Olympic medal is to stop you asking the question. Seven years now it's been going on."
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