Mark Cavendish (Getty Images)
London - It's now or never for British
cycling great Mark Cavendish in his goal to at last win an Olympic medal.
In theory everything appears in mint
condition for the 31-year-old 'Manx Missile' to fill the one hole in his CV as
he arrives in Rio fresh from four stage wins in the Tour de France - taking his
total to 30, just four shy of Eddie Mercx's record.
However, Cavendish - who pulled out of the
Tour de France early so as to preserve his strength for the Games - will have
to adapt quickly as he is not competing on the road but reverts to the track,
something he has not competed at in the Games since 2008.
Cavendish teams up with Wiggins in the
six-discipline Omnium in Rio - the duo having won the world title this year in
the Madison - and hope for a happier outcome than when they finished ninth in
the 2008 Beijing Games.
"Olympic gold is one thing left - I've
tried it twice and I was in superb form on both days and they eluded me,"
said Cavendish, whose other appearance at the Games saw him squeezed out of
contention in London.
"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.
"I'm proudly patriotic and I love
every time I get to pull on the Great Britain jersey and the Olympics is the
biggest thing I can do. I wouldn't have done it unless I thought I could medal
in my two events," added Cavendish, who is also a reserve for the team
Cavendish, who won the world road race
title in 2011 when the team was captained by one of his idols as a boy David
Millar, fell in love with competitive cycling at an early age.
He would often compete in mountain bike
races while racing an ordinary BMX. Frustrated at his failure to compete, he
pestered his parents for a mountain bike to level the playing field.
"I got one for my thirteenth birthday.
The very next day I went out and beat everyone," he said in a 2008
Cavendish, though, has had to battle hard
to make it as a professional and despite sometimes being accused of arrogance,
is described as down-to-earth by those closest to him.
Indeed Cavendish showed his sensitivity
when he won the opening stage of this year's Tour de France, which climaxed at
Utah Beach, one of the landing sites for the Allied Forces on D-Day in 1944.
After collecting the yellow jersey,
Cavendish was part of a moving ceremony to remember the war dead.
"I wanted to be involved with the
armed forces in the UK and to finish here at Utah Beach was an incredible
opportunity to remember and respect not just D-Day but those who've fought and
died in all wars for our freedom in the western world," said Cavendish.
"I wanted to (dedicate) this victory
and say thank you to those great men and women and friends back in the UK who
served in the armed forces."