It is almost seven years since Mark Cavendish last pulled on the Great Britain Cycling Team kit on the track on the world stage, but this weekend will see the Manxman make his long-awaited return at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Hong Kong.
The 30-year-old made the full-time transition to road racing, winning rainbow stripes at the world championship and becoming the most successful sprinter in Tour de France history. But Cavendish says there’s still something missing.
“I’d like an Olympic medal. I’ve only got a couple of Olympics left.”
Cavendish missed out in Beijing in 2008, finishing ninth in the Madison alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins. Such was his reputation on the road by London 2012, that other nations marked him as the ‘one to win’ and prevented him from claiming gold at his home Games.
With the first South American Olympics on the horizon in Rio this summer, Cavendish will tackle the omnium in Hong Kong this weekend with only one target on his mind.
“I haven’t qualified for the Olympics yet, so I need to get points to qualify.
“As an endurance rider, I like the new format of the omnium, with the points race at the end. It plays into my strengths as a rider.
“I’ve been doing a lot of track training, a lot of specific stuff for the 250 and the timed events that can detriment that final points race, but hopefully I can get Olympic qualifying points and I’ll be in the contention for the Olympic Games and then we’ll see what we do from there.”
2016 is set to be another busy year for the Manx Missile, with his lofty track ambitions alongside his aims on the road. As well as targeting an Olympic medal and a rainbow jersey at the track world championships in London, Cavendish also wants to become world champion on the road once more with a win in Qatar this October, as well as to hold the Tour de France yellow jersey for the first time this summer.
It’s a big wish list, but Cavendish is confident he can manage the workload.
“First and foremost, I’m a professional road rider. That’s how it is. My job is on the road, but I’d like an Olympic medal.
“I think we’ve got a great structure (in the Great Britain Cycling Team). Shane Sutton and Heiko Salzwedel have known me since I was pretty much a kid and they’ve both had massive influences on my career, so to be able to work with them and the guys around is pretty nice.
“I know that Dimension Data (Cavendish’s new road team) and the guys there have got trust in me that I can work the two and I’m incredibly fortunate that they’ve given me the leniency to work for them both.”
Who would bet against Cavendish achieving his 2016 dreams? The road to glory begins in Hong Kong.