Mark Cavendish: Rio Olympic dream 'probably over' for cyclist

By Matt SlaterBBC Sport
Mark Cavendish says he probably will not be able to compete in the Rio Olympics, as Matt Slater reports

Mark Cavendish says it is unlikely that he will ride on the road or track for Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The sprinter, 29, missed out on a track medal at Beijing in 2008 and a road medal at London 2012 but hinted at a return to the velodrome in 2016 with the hilly road race not suiting him.

However, he believes it will be almost impossible to fulfil his obligations to his road team and ride enough World Cup track events to qualify for Rio.

"It probably won't happen," he said.

"It's not 100% I'm not doing the Olympics, but it's difficult. If I'm honest. I've got a road job."

Cavendish, who is entering the final 12 months of a three-year contract with the Belgian-based Etixx - Quick-Step team, does not blame his employers for not releasing him during the road season to race on the track.

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish finished 29th in the road race at the London 2012 Olympics

He believes cycling's governing body, the UCI, has made it almost impossible for cyclists to combine the track and road.

"The UCI has segregated track and road cycling completely," he said.

"So you have to do what Sir Bradley Wiggins is doing and quit road cycling to be able to qualify for it.

"It's killing track cycling, because you never get the road stars doing track anymore. Track cycling is going to die, particularly on the endurance side.

"As a British athlete, I want to do the Olympics, but it's hard.

"I can't do it on the road, can't do it in the time trial and on the track there's just no way to qualify without quitting the road."

The Olympic road race course in Rio is not expected to suit a sprint specialist like Cavendish because the circuit features two climbs, with a maximum gradient of 13%, and a cobblestone section of 2km.

"The road race doesn't suit me," Cavendish told BBC Sport. "The time trial, well, I'm not a time triallist."

Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish
Cavendish competed alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins in the Madison on the track at Beijing 2008

This typically honest assessment almost certainly marks the end of a Cavendish's long quest for an Olympic medal.

He was unfortunate in Beijing when a tired Wiggins was unable to give him any support in the two-man Madison race on the track and they came home ninth, despite being two-time world champions in the event.

In London, he was marked out of the road race, eventually leading home the chasing bunch in 29th place.

It was while watching the track team dominate again in a punditry role for the BBC at London 2012 that Cavendish first started to talk about returning to the velodrome for a third shot at a medal.

Hopes that this might happen rose when his Etixx - Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere allowed him to ride two events on the track in Europe this winter.

But Lefevere has made it clear that Cavendish's priorities lie on the road, starting with a serious tilt at the Milan-San Remo one-day classic in March, running through to the Giro d'Italia in May and culminating in a bid to add to his 25 Tour de France stage wins in July.

Cavendish's season opens in Argentina on 19 January at the Tour de San Luis.