By Sophie Smith
Mark Cavendish will make a return to the boards at the International Belgian Open Friday with the view of keeping the option of a track berth at the 2016 Rio Olympics alive.
British Cycling men's endurance coach Paul Manning told Cycling Weekly
Cavendish is unlikely to compete at the November World Cup in
However, a start in Ghent makes him eligible for other
international track meets on the current calendar pending approval from
Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
The 28-year-old will represent Great Britain in the scratch race as well as the Madison, alongside Owain Doull, at the Open, which carries UCI World Cup qualifying points. Under new UCI criteria, riders must qualify their own spot to be eligible for World Cup, and by extension World Championship and Olympic, selection.
Olympic champions Steven Burke and Joanna Rowsell as well as Jon Dibben
and Ross Edgar (Scotland) will also compete in Belgium. Dibben will start the omnium in an effort to maintain the nation's ranking in the event.
"I saw him at the road nationals and I spoke to him on the phone," Manning said of Cavendish.
"He's doing it entirely so that if he wants to do a World Cup, he can. Without doing Ghent he can't race at a World Cup. If you can't do a World Cup you can't go to Worlds. We're not saying he is, but without doing Ghent he can't do any of it so you've got to tick that box and then answer the next question."
The news comes after Bradley Wiggins revealed his plans to call time on his professional road career at the end of next season and then focus on the track at Rio.
"To speculate where that focus is for someone like Mark is a bit premature," Manning said. "I think we'll find a bit more out through the autumn, through the IOC and the UCI, and people will be able to make those decisions. In the meantime, if he enjoys a pedal on the track it's in his mind as to how that looks as well."
Olympic success has twice eluded Cavendish in as many career appearances and he last year toyed with the idea of running for team pursuit selection. He will train at the Manchester velodrome before the September 6-7 Open.
"We haven't scored in a third event that counts to anything yet so Mark racing the Madison with Owain will hopefully tick that box topping up points," Manning said.
Cavendish is due to return to road racing at the September 15-22 Tour of Britain and has expressed interest in representing Great Britain at the upcoming UCI World Championships, where he lives, in Florence, Italy.
The original version of this article appeared in the August 29 2013 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine
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