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It is beginning to look as if Mark Cavendish will not fill the second Great Britain spot in the individual pursuit at the Beijing Olympics.

The Isle of Man rider will be riding the Madison with Bradley Wiggins on the final day of the track competition on Tuesday, August 19, and it had been thought he was in the running for the second spot in the 4,000-metre event after some promising times.

Cavendish, 23, has posted times around the four minutes 20 second mark, which judging by the times set in the qualifying round of the World Championships in March might be enough for the top six.

But for a rider who set cycling alight by winning four stages of the Tour de France, that is neither here nor there and the question was always whether making a competitive debut in such a high pressure arena would be a good idea.

Cavendish is in the spotlight as a result of his Tour success and he?s not a specialist pursuiter, although he clearly has potential to be world class if he chose to focus on the discipline. The wider audience would struggle to understand if Cavendish, who dominated at the Tour de France, could only finish sixth in qualifying. It?s simply not worth it.


If the matter were only about the individual pursuit, Geraint Thomas would be the automatic choice to join defending champion Wiggins in the competition.

The Welsh rider has reportedly recorded a time of 4-17 in training and is a natural. If he could replicate that in competition he?d be on course for a medal and could possibly push Wiggins all the way.

But Thomas is inexperienced at the individual event, this is his first Olympic Games and he is a vital part of the team pursuit quartet. Those factors mean asking him to double up is a risk.

The individual medal races are on Saturday evening (Chinese time), with the team pursuit qualifying round the following morning.

British Cycling have five riders to choose from for the team pursuit: Wiggins, Thomas, Paul Manning, Ed Clancy and Steven Burke.

That means they can only rest one rider from the team pursuit qualifiying and if Wiggins goes all the way to the gold medal final in the individual, they may want to give him a rest.

The other options for the IP are thought to be Chris Newton, who has been an integral part of the team pursuit squad in the past and has experience in the individual event, or 20-year-old Steven Burke, who could also step in for the team pursuit qualifying round. However, neither Newton nor Burke would be considered contenders for a medal in the individual pursuit.

Cavendish will instead focus everything on winning gold in the Madison as the pair did at the World Championships in March.

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.