LONDON (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish will get the chance to claim a long-awaited Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro this year after being named in Britain’s track cycling team on Friday.
The 30-year-old, the most prolific road sprinter of his generation with 26 Tour de France stage wins, will take part in the multi-discipline omnium event in the Rio velodrome.
Cavendish, who will ride he Tour de France for Team Dimension Data, missed out on a road race medal at the London 2012 Olympics and in the Madison in Beijing eight years ago when partnering Bradley Wiggins.
Olympic road time trial champion Wiggins, 35, returns to his track roots in a bid for an eighth Olympic medal and fifth gold and he will be a key part of the team pursuit squad that was beaten into silver by Australia at the recent worlds.
Ed Clancy and Steven Burke, gold medal winners in London, and Owain Doull make up the quartet with Cavendish as back-up.
Chris Froome, favorite for a third Tour de France yellow jersey next month, will spearhead Britain’s road challenge, eyeing a hilly time trial course suited to his style. His Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas will be a threat in the road race.
World road champion Lizzie Armitstead leads the women’s squad with Beijing 2008 time-trial silver medalist Emma Pooley.
Cavendish’s place was in doubt when he failed to medal in the omnium at the world track championships in London in March -- the minimum target he had been set by Sutton.
He could only finish sixth, although he did team up with Wiggins to win the Madison gold in London -- an event that is no longer part of the Olympic program.
The Isle of Man rider, known as the Manx Missile, has juggled his road season schedule with extensive track training sessions this year.
“I’ve made no secret that my aim is to win an Olympic medal and I‘m so pleased to have been given this opportunity,” he said in statement. “I’ve given my all to training these past few months and I‘m committed to doing my absolute best out in Rio.”
Cycling powerhouse Britain dominated the London 2012 Games, winning nine medals, including seven golds, on the track and three on the road including Wiggins’ time trial gold just a few weeks after he had claimed the Tour de France.
They also won eight golds at the Beijing Games but repeating that domination will not be easy.
Other nations, notably Australian, New Zealand and France, have strengthened while British Cycling was rocked this year when team chief Shane Sutton quit after becoming engulfed in a row about sexism and discrimination.
This week former track team pursuit gold medalist Dani King criticized the team selection policy after being left out of the Olympic road team despite being the second-highest ranked British woman behind Armistead on the UCI World Tour.
Despite the controversies, Sutton’s replacement Andy Harrison is confident the 26-rider team will deliver.
“We’ve seen some good results across the disciplines this season and I’ve every confidence we can step it up once more for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” he said.
Laura Trott will be out to repeat her omnium and team pursuit double gold in London and will be joined by fellow London medal winner Johanna Rowsell Shand and kerin hope Becky James.
Trott’s fiance, world and Olympic champion Jason Kenny, will be favorite for sprint gold.
“Speaking on behalf of the male sprint squad, I think we’re in a good place and we’re all ready to race in Rio,” Kenny said.
Editing by Ed Osmond