British cycling head coach warns Cavendish his Olympic prospects are fading
Mark Cavendish remains determined to pursue a place on Great Britain's track team at next year's Olympics but has been warned he faces an "extremely challenging" path to selection.
Cavendish, 34, made clear in September his desire to ride next summer in Tokyo, where the Madison - an event in which he is the only active British rider to be a three-time world champion - will return to the Olympic programme.
However, while the door remains open for Cavendish, British Cycling head coach Iain Dyer has indicated he faces an uphill battle not only to earn enough qualification points this winter, but then to force his way into a competitive five-man endurance squad.
"The door is open but it's extremely challenging to carve out an opportunity at this point," Dyer told the PA media agency.
"Simply because there are people there that have had their hand in the air."
Ethan Hayter and Ollie Wood took Madison silver in the Glasgow World Cup last month, and were also part of the British team pursuit squad that took silver at the World Championships in Pruszkow earlier in the year.
And it is the team pursuit which might be Cavendish's most significant barrier to riding the Madison.
"When you're travelling to the other side of the world with only five riders at your disposal you really want to make sure you're covered for both pursuits and bunch racing events, ideally with reserves and flexibility there," Dyer said.
"You still want to have five that can ride the team pursuit so to have someone who is solely a Madison specialist in there and doesn't have any other availability isn't the perfect scenario. If one of the other riders goes down you've got a problem."
But that feedback has not deterred Cavendish, who remains in conversations with British Cycling about a path forward.
Cavendish went to the Rio Olympics as the fifth man in 2016 and took silver in the omnium - his first career Olympic medal.
That capped a summer in which the Manxman had won four stages of the Tour de France - success he partially credited to the work he had done in the velodrome over the summer.
After two years in which his results have suffered hugely as a result of battling the Epstein-Barr virus and a number of injuries, Cavendish would surely love to recapture that form as he heads into his first season with the new-look Bahrain-McLaren team next year.
His new team, headed by former British Cycling coach Rod Ellingworth, are supportive of Cavendish's Olympic ambitions.
But while he has entered the high-profile Six Day track events in both London and Ghent already this winter, finishing second in London alongside Owain Doull, Cavendish is yet to earn enough qualification points for Tokyo.
With the Hong Kong World Cup having taken place this weekend, there are three further editions to come this winter - in Cambridge, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia this month, and Milton in Canada in January, before the World Championships in Berlin in February.
"He needs to get 250 points (to qualify) and he's got to do a counting event within the cycle which would be a World Cup or the World Championships," Dyer said. "Opportunities are now flying by which makes that increasingly difficult.
"You don't do a Madison on your own so while it is still logistically a possibility the chances would appear to be diminishing at this point."