Team GB favour Clancy over Cavendish for Olympic omnium

Team GB’s wealth of riches in certain Olympic track events is particularly evident in the men’s omnium, where 2012 bronze medallist Ed Clancy, Team Sky’s Ben Swift, Etixx-QuickStep’s Mark Cavendish and the upcoming Jon Dibben are all possibles for the one place likely to be available in Rio de Janeiro next year.

With a year to go to the start of the Rio 2016 Olympics, Team GB technical director Shane Sutton believes that Clancy has the edge on the other riders. But the Australian believes Cavendish has the ability to compete for a gold medal next year if he can achieve enough qualification points beforehand.

“Cav is coming in on the 15th to do the Derby Revolution event in order to try to score some points for qualification,” Sutton told Cyclingnews. “But I’ve got to be totally honest. It’s not going to be easy for him.

“We’ve also got London’s bronze medallist, who I rate as probably the best omnium rider in the world alongside Italy’s Elia Viviani. I think in timed events no one can touch Ed. I think if Ed decides that he’s going to apply himself to the omnium, then anyone who plans on making that squad is going to have to be prepared to commit fully because there’s no doubt Ed’s the best in the world.”

Sutton admitted he wouldn’t be surprised to see Cavendish rise to this challenge, even if the Manxman has to combine it with racing next year’s Tour de France, which finishes just a fortnight before the start of the Rio Olympics. “Cav is Cav. He’s the fastest roadman in the world, a British legend, and we’re going to welcome him with open arms,” said Sutton.

“I’m quite sure that Ed and the rest of the endurance squad who’ll be vying for these spots will welcome him back. If anyone could do it, it’s Cav. But, as I said, I’m very confident in what we’ve got at this time if Cav decides not to do it.”

Team pursuiter Clancy, who won gold in that event in London before going on to take bronze in the omnium, revealed that he has yet to decide on whether he will double up again. “My first thoughts are that it will be similar to London and the team pursuit will come first for me. I like it more. It’s a safer medal, as anything could happen in the omnium,” said the Yorkshireman.

“However, although I’ve only ridden a couple of omniums in the new format, if Derby goes all right and if whatever World Cup I do or the Europeans goes well and I’m lucky enough to be selected for the Worlds and Olympics, then I might have a go.”

Clancy described Cavendish as being “a cut above the others” who may be in the hunt for the omnium place that will be allocated to Team GB if it is ranked in the top 18 in the world and the top eight in Europe when Olympic qualification is finalised. Great Britain currently lies 13th in the world rankings and ninth in Europe.

“If Cav turns up and he’s brilliant, or if Dibben continues to get better and better, then I won’t be super disappointed if I’m left to concentrate 100 per cent of my efforts on the team pursuit,” said Clancy.

“But if Shane deems I’m ready for it then it will be fantastic. It will be the same as London. I’ll concentrate all of my training efforts, all my physical efforts, on the team pursuit, and I’ll ride the omnium on the back of it.”

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).