LONDON (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish’s hopes of claiming a place in Britain’s Olympic team hang in the balance after he finished sixth in the omnium at the world track championships on Saturday.
The 30-year-old was fifth going into the final discipline, the 160-lap points race, and was unable to improve his position as Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria Rendon registered an epic victory from charging German Roger Kluge.
Earlier, Cavendish finished 11th in the 1km time trial before reviving his chances in the flying lap where he was fourth quickest.
Cavendish, the most prolific road sprinter of his generation with 26 Tour de France stage wins, made a good start to the points race but fell short of the medals.
“We both agreed a podium performance would have been ideal and cemented his place,” British coach Shane Sutton told reporters when asked whether the rider’s dream of being selected for the track squad in Rio were effectively over.
”But it is Mark Cavendish. He scored a lot of points and over the six events he did some really good stuff ... but two events let him down.
”He didn’t execute the individual pursuit like we said but we owe him the respect to sit down and see if this is realistic going forward.
“We want to ask him ‘can you commit to this?’ and see what he says. At the end of the day we are talking about one of the greatest riders of all time and we can’t rule him out.”
Cavendish, who suffered disappointment at London 2012 when he missed a medal in the road race, was roared on by the crowd as he tried to score in the 16 intermediate sprints that punctuate the points race every 10 laps.
He won three of them but ended with a total of 161, 20 points behind Olympic champion Lasse Norman Hansen.
With the hilly road race course in Rio not favourable to Cavendish, a return to his track roots and the multi-discipline omnium could be his best chance of an Olympic medal.
”The timed events let me down a bit, in the individual pursuit I got a bit carried away and rode like a junior,“ he said. ”In the points (race) it was hard for me to get away.
“I don’t know if I‘m going to the Olympics. They were the best guys in the world there and the competition won’t be any harder at the Olympics.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin