With the dust almost settled on the World Track Cycling Championships in London, the focus will now be on just who Team GB should select for the Olympics. Team GB will have a few easy decisions to make, especially when it comes to the women's Team Sprint event. They won't be taking anyone as the team failed to qualify. Going into the Team Sprint at the worlds, they needed to finish at least 2 places above France, something they failed to do and which lead to riders publicly criticising the way the qualification process was approached.
The main dilemma for the Team GB selectors is whether or not to take Mark Cavendish to Rio. Cavendish has made it his goal to make the team, racing in Hong Kong, Columbia..... and Derby, in the hopes of gaining a place. Ed Clancy's injury has helped his cause, despite him being back with the team pursuit squad he was not in any position to ride the Omnium. The Omnium is the Olympic event that Cavendish can realistically target and it is where his focus has been since the 2015 road season ended. Cavendish has gone as far as renting a flat in Manchester over the winter, in order to train with the squad at the National Cycling Centre.
The World Track Cycling Championships were Cav's opportunity to show Team GB that they must put him on the plane to Rio in the summer. The issue for Cav is the way the squad must be made up. The Omnium rider is part of the endurance squad, with each team being allowed 5 riders. The team for the Team Pursuit must also come from that group of riders. The Team Pursuit only requires 4 riders but team's regularly switch members from round to round, and injuries and illness can happen at any time. So that means the fifth rider in the squad must be able to contribute to the Team Pursuit Squad. Something that goes against Cavendish. Bradley Wiggins, Ed Clancy and Owen Doull seem nailed on to go. Steven Burke also looks likely to go, but Jonathan Dibben is knocking on the door. Dibben won the gold in the men's points race at the Worlds, in impressive style. The points race is a vital part of the Omnium and suggests that he could do just as well as Cavendish in that event, if selected. In that case it comes down to which of the two riders can contribute the most to the Team Pursuit team, if they are required to ride it.
The evidence would suggest that that man is Dibben. Dibben is already a big part of the Team Pursuit squad, he rode in the final where Britain lost out to Australia and ended up with the Silver medal. The Team Pursuit Squad is lead by Bradley Wiggins and it would take the hardest of hearts not to be be sentimental when it comes to helping him chase his dream of bookending his remarkable career with a final gold medal. The Team Pursuit is also less of a lottery than the Omnium, so it is an easier goal to actualise, something that clearly appeals to Team GB's obsession with numbers. Add to that the fact that Team GB are the current Olympic champions and you can see that Team Pursuit is the main event, with the Omnium a potential bonus medal.
Mark Cavendish ended the Omnium event at the World Championships with a sixth place. Neither disastrous nor exceptional. He had some decent moments, namely in the elimination race (where he finished second) and the points race where he scored points in several of the sprints. However his individual events were not great, especially his individual pursuit was where he managed only thirteenth place.
A gold medal and it would have been hard to ignore him. Even a silver or bronze would probably have earned himself a place in the squad for Rio. Shane Sutton and his team will now go away and make what seems a difficult decision. We all want to see the greatest ever Road Cycling sprinter achieve his Olympic dream (and banish the memories of Beijing in 2008) but take the heart out of it and make the decision with your head, as Shane Sutton will undoubtedly do, and the decision appears much easier. Cavendish doesn't offer enough to the Team Pursuit squad, and he would have to improve massively to win a medal in the Omnium. For that reason I would select Jonathan Dibben ahead of him.
None selection will be a massive disappointment for Cavendish, he has sacrificed a lot to even put himself in contention. His team, Dimension Data, have also sacrificed a lot as they pay him handsomely to win sprints on the road. The Omnium's loss will be the Tour De France's gain, though. Without Rio on the horizon, Cavendish is certain to once again race in the Grand Boucle, and with a BIG point to prove. He may have fallen down the sprinting pecking order with the reinvigorated Marcel Kittel back to his best, and Andre Greipel better than ever despite his advancing age, but Cavendish loves to compete. He might not be worth 4 or 5 stages like in his heyday, but I wouldn't bet against him holding his arms aloft at lest once in the 21 days. What price it being on the Champs Elysees?