Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish told to prioritise in 2012

By Matt SlaterBBC sports news reporter

The man who has masterminded British cycling's rise on the world stage has given the clearest signal yet that Mark Cavendish will prioritise the Olympic road race and Bradley Wiggins will go for Tour de France glory.

British stars Cavendish and Wiggins have joined forces at Team Sky this season and both riders have significant chances of success in France in July and at London 2012 a week later.

World champion Cavendish will be trying to defend the sprinter's green jersey he won in Paris last year and then claim Olympic road race gold, while Wiggins is chasing the overall prize at the Tour and the time trial medal in London.

But Dave Brailsford, who divides his time between being British Cycling's performance director and Team Sky's general manager, told the BBC that trying to do all this would be a "recipe for failure".

"We've got four big goals in close proximity and they all revolve around Mark and Bradley," said Brailsford.

"So at this stage of the game you look at what their form is like and, like everything in life, you prioritise.

"I think just to say that you're going to give each one equal significance and try to win everything is probably the recipe for failure.

"What we really need to do is to look at them and say: 'If you could just have one, which one would you take?'

"You then build your chances around that. We're clear in our minds about our approach for this year and it will pan out as we get there."

Brailsford, whose GB cycling team won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, would not be drawn on revealing which of those targets his riders have selected. But many observers are suggesting the 26-year-old Cavendish might never have a better chance to win his first Olympic medal, while Wiggins has three of those already but has never looked in better shape to become the first Briton to win cycling's most famous race.

Wiggins, who will be 32 in April, has recently won the second most prestigious stage race in France, the Paris-Nice. And with Alberto Contador ruled out of the Tour de France this year because of a doping ban, the Team Sky leader is currently the bookies' second favourite behind defending champion Cadel Evans.

"We have known for some time that Bradley is an exceptional rider," said Brailsford.

"He is building experience and belief and the performances are coming with that.

"We've come into the season with a clear game plan for Bradley and he's delivered every time. If you look at his record over the last year, it's pretty spectacular.

"So he's on track and there's more to come. We can look forward to July with real excitement."

Cavendish's performances over the last 12 months have been just as impressive.

He won five more stages at the Tour de France to take his personal tally to 20, sixth on the all-time list, and then became only the second Briton to win the men's road race at the world championships.

These triumphs and others saw his profile rise rapidly and it was no surprise when the softly spoken rider from the Isle of Man was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December.

But his solid start to the 2012 season has come unstuck slightly as he failed to finish his first big race of the year, the Milan-San Remo classic on Saturday.

"That performance was a bit of a surprise and we don't often have surprises, particularly from Mark," said Brailsford.

"He's a great champion and has got so much class but it didn't work out for him at the weekend and that's uncharacteristic.

"We're looking at all the numbers to see if we can put our finger on it. It could be illness, it could be latent fatigue. There are a whole host of things it could be.

"But you have to take your hat off to Mark Cavendish for all that he's achieved. If anyone has earned the right to a bad day it's him."