World Road Cycling: Mark Cavendish faces '2012 rehearsal'

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter

Mark Cavendish faces a London 2012 "dress rehearsal" at this week's Road World Championships, according to British cycling great Chris Boardman.

Tour de France green jersey winner Cavendish starts as favourite to win Sunday's world road race in Denmark.

"This year is almost a dress rehearsal for the Olympics," said Boardman.

"I can't imagine Mark sacrificing the Tour for the Olympics but he hasn't had that Olympic medal experience and he dearly, dearly wants it."

An Olympic title does not occupy quite the same prestigious position within cycling as it does in other sports, with the World Championships and three Grand Tours usually seen as taking precedence.

Victory in Copenhagen, and the chance to wear the world champion's rainbow jersey, would mean more to many riders than an Olympic gold medal.

Cavendish has previously described the rainbow jersey as "an honour that is greatly, greatly admired in the sport".

Boardman believes Cavendish, who was the only British track cyclist not to win a medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, will want to prove himself at the London Olympics.

However, the 2012 Tour de France will finish in Paris just six days before the men's Olympic road race on 28 July.

Boardman held the Tour yellow jersey on three occasions, having turned to the road after winning Olympic goldexternal-link on the track at Barcelona 1992.

And he said: "People have got to choose - if you're going for the Olympics next year then the 2012 Tour de France may become impossible.

"Mark has won plenty of Tour stages, he's done the green jersey, so he might focus on the Olympics in 2012.

"If he does then he'll run into same problems at the Olympics as at this year's Worlds - a tough race to control with opportunities for breakaways, and the team size is smaller at the Games [five, down from eight in the GB team at the Worlds]. You can't control a race with five guys; you can influence it, but not control it."

Olympic cycling remains a distant concern ahead of this week's racing, which sees the women's and men's time trials take place on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively before the women's road race on Saturday and the men's race on Sunday.

"Within the sport there are plenty of people in the peloton who couldn't tell you who won the team pursuit or individual pursuit at the last Olympics - it doesn't figure in their world," said Boardman, BBC Sport's summariser in Copenhagen.

"In Bradley Wiggins' case he's been and done the Olympics. London is special but his priority needs to be the Tour.

"The proximity of those two events makes it very difficult. You have to choose before the season starts. I think Geraint Thomas will prioritise the Olympics on the track, Bradley will prioritise the Tour, and he'll see what's left for the Olympics - which might very well be the form of his life, but it's a high-risk way of getting there."

Wiggins and Thomas will form the backbone of a seven-man lead-out train for Cavendish on Sunday, alongside the likes of David Millar and recent Tour of Spain runner-up Chris Froome, on a course Boardman believes is ideally suited to the Manxman.

"If Mark could have designed a course, this would have been it," he sad.

"Relative to recent Worlds it's an incredibly flat, urban course, well-protected from the wind. It all points towards a bunch sprint."

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