Mark Cavendish is expected to be in the Great Britain squad for the world track championships after a seven-year absence from the competition when the team for the event, to be held in London from 2-6 March, is announced on Tuesday following a final selection meeting.
Cavendish has hit winning form on the road, taking a stage and the overall standings in the Tour of Qatar last week, which has apparently reassured the rider and his coaches that he can combine road and track racing, and target a gold medal at the Rio Olympics and stage wins in the Tour de France.
One issue that remains to be settled is whether Cavendish rides the six-event omnium at Lee Valley VeloPark, or only the Madison two-man relay with Sir Bradley Wiggins, his partner when the pair won the world title in Manchester in 2008. Cavendish last rode the event in 2009, when he partnered Peter Kennaugh in Poland. There is no chance of his riding the scratch and points races – bunched races that would suit him – because he does not have the UCI qualification points. Wiggins will also figure in the selection, returning to a track world championships for the first time since 2008.
The omnium offers the Great Britain selectors a quandary, because Ed Clancy, the bronze medallist at the London Olympics in 2012, is said to have made a quicker recovery than expected from a back operation. The other contender, besides Cavendish and Clancy, is Jon Dibben, who rode the event at the world championships in Paris in 2015 and won the bronze medal at the European championships in October.
Cavendish raced the omnium at the World Cup in Hong Kong in January to gain the qualifying points for the world championships, finishing fourth after a relatively slow ride in the individual pursuit – the discipline among the six that is his weakest suit – but his form has moved on, as shown by the strong time-trial ride that helped him win the overall standings in Qatar last week.
While some – Wiggins and the Italian track specialist Elia Viviani, who will be one of the favourites for the omnium in Rio – have cast doubt on Cavendish’s ability to hit his diverse targets for 2016, taking in the Tour de France and the Olympics, the head of his Dimension Data team, Doug Ryder, said after the Qatar victory he was confident Cavendish could get close to Tour de France success and ride well in Rio.
“Looking at him and how positive his outlook is, that’s half of the battle won,” Ryder told the website cyclingnews.com. “If you believe you can do something and it is possible, then it is possible. He’s got such a strong mind and he’s so willing to give it a go it is half the battle won.”
As well as Wiggins and Cavendish, the other key figure expected to regain a place in the squad is the Welsh sprinter Becky James, the double world champion in 2013 who has been sidelined for the past two years because of injury.
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