Shane Sutton: Mark Cavendish must leave Tour de France early for Olympic chance

Published: Sunday 6th March 2016 by The News Editor

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Mark Cavendish must leave the Tour de France before its conclusion in Paris if he wishes to be considered for selection on the track at the Rio Olympics, British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton said on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Manxman has won 26 Tour stages, including four times on the Champs-Elysees, and the 2011 road race world title, but an Olympic medal has so far proved elusive.

Cavendish won his first four Tour stages in 2008 before leaving the race early to prepare for the Olympics in Beijing, where he finished ninth in the Madison alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins, fatigued by his efforts in winning the individual and team pursuits.

The Manxman vowed never to voluntarily leave the Tour early again, but now must if he is to be considered for the omnium place at August’s Olympics.

“For sure, he will be at the Tour. One hundred per cent,” Sutton said.

“(But) Cav won’t do three weeks of the Tour. If he wants to medal, he’s well aware that he probably wouldn’t be going to Paris.”

Sutton says Cavendish’s Team Dimension Data squad are supportive of Cavendish’s Olympic bid. If Cavendish were to win the opening stage of the Tour in Normandy on July 2 and claim the race leader’s yellow jersey for the first time it would make abandoning easier.

The British Cycling chief will sit down with Cavendish to determine if the Manxman wishes to make himself available for selection.

Should he choose to bid for selection, a panel of Sutton, head coach Iain Dyer, team manager Keith Reynolds and men’s endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel will make the final call on his participation by their June 13 deadline.

“(It is down to) the selection panel, but mostly Cav. We’ve just got to wait and see what he says,” Sutton added.

After suffering the ignominy of being the only member of Britain’s track team not to win a medal at the Beijing Games, Cavendish was 29th in the road race on the opening day of London 2012.

He switched his focus to the track as the Rio road race course is undulating and is more suited to two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, while the omnium was reformatted to place additional emphasis on a concluding points race, one of the Cavendish’s strongest suits.

A rider in the six-discipline omnium, in which Cavendish placed sixth at the Track Cycling World Championships in London, must also be able to slot into the four-rider, four-kilometres team pursuit.

The team event takes priority over the omnium, which can be something of a lottery, and Cavendish must be able to compete at gold medal-winning, world record-breaking pace.

“I guess as he’s getting older the hills are getting bigger at the back end of the Tour,” Sutton added.

“(But) I don’t know. Those questions can only be answered when we sit down with him.

“I know it sounds like I’m avoiding the question, ‘Is he going?’ But I can’t tell you at this moment in time.”

The 2016 Tour runs from July 2 to July 24. The Olympic track programme takes place from August 11 to 16.

Sutton has no doubts Cavendish is capable of slotting into a team pursuit squad which includes Wiggins and is targeting a time of three minutes 50 seconds to win Olympic gold.

The current plan is for Cavendish to return to the track between May’s week-long Tour of California and the Tour de France.

Sutton said: “I have total confidence that Cav can do the job in TP (team pursuit). I’ve always believed that. I don’t think that comes into question for me.

“A lot of people say, ‘Are you diluting your TP medal opportunity?’ I don’t believe that at all. I believe Cav’s, from years and years ago, a very good little TP-er and when he’s on form I’m sure he can pull his weight. I haven’t got any problems in that area at all.”

Cavendish and Wiggins on Sunday won the now non-Olympic Madison world title for a second time. The pair also won it in Manchester in 2008.

Published: Sunday 6th March 2016 by The News Editor

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