Mark Cavendish cools talk of track return and insists he is still world's best sprinter
Mark Cavendish has cooled talk of making a return to track cycling for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Last Updated: 07/11/13 10:40am
The 25-time Tour de France stage winner said in the wake of the London 2012 Games that he would like to make his comeback on the boards and challenge for a place in the men's team pursuit quartet in Brazil.
He had already raced at a track meeting in Belgium in September in a bid to earn qualifying points for the 2014 track world championships and has been invited to train with the British track team over the winter.
However, British Cycling endurance coaches have clearly stated that any candidate for the pursuit team would have to commit fully to a track programme and Cavendish has conceded that is something he will find difficult to do.
"I'm a professional on the road," he said. "I ride for a pro road team and, ultimately, that is where my loyalties lie.
No solid plans
"If I'm able to do, I would like to think about it [the track], but I have got no solid plans. I want to keep myself in the frame, but there are also guys that put 100 per cent of their time into the track and it is beneficial to British Cycling if those guys get their chance."
Despite playing down his chances of racing in Rio, Cavendish acknowledges that he still craves an Olympic medal.
He was the only British track rider not to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and suffered another disappointment at London 2012, when he was unable to follow up on his status as favourite for the men's road race.
"In terms of being a professional rider, it is not really too big a thing, but in terms of being a British athlete, a patriotic man who wants to represent the flag you are born under, for me it is the biggest thing," he said of Olympic success.
"Maybe in the grand scheme of things it is just the difference between being an OBE and an MBE, but it is something I would like to do as a British athlete."
Central to Cavendish's desire to remain a road rider is the possibility of eclipsing Eddy Merckx's long-standing record of 34 Tour de France stage wins.
Cavendish had appeared certain to overtake the legendary Belgian after notching up 20 victories between 2008 and 2011, but he added only five in the last two years, with 2013's tally of two wins representing his poorest return at the Tour in six years.
Where once Cavendish was so superior to his rivals that he was almost guaranteed to win sprint finishes, the maturing of Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan and the improvement of Andre Greipel mean the odds have begun to swing away from the Briton.
He insisted that he remains the No 1 sprinter in road cycling, but acknowledged he now has to train in new ways to maintain his edge.
"This has been the first year that I have been really challenged," he added. "It has made me realise I'm getting old and I have got to work on stuff I haven't had to work on before. I still believe I'm the most dominant sprinter.
"In the  Tour I just didn't feel on it. In the past I have been able to win when I'm not on it, but now I can't afford that."