Friday 28 October 2016

Mark Cavendish withdraws from Tour de France to focus on Olympic dream

Matt McGeehan

Published 19/07/2016 | 20:46

At 31, Cavendish has never won an Olympic medal, which rankles with him. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
At 31, Cavendish has never won an Olympic medal, which rankles with him. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Mark Cavendish has opted to end his Tour de France prematurely to focus on his bid for the so-far elusive Olympic medal.

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The 31-year-old's Team Dimension Data squad announced Cavendish will not resume the race in Tuesday's 17th stage, ending his participation on the second rest day.

The Isle of Man sprinter won four stages, including the first at Utah Beach, to take the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. His overall tally is now 30, second only to Eddy Merckx.

However, Cavendish has opted to leave the Tour ahead of Sunday's conclusion in Paris to focus on his dream of omnium gold in Rio next month.

He said he took the decision "with great sadness" and added: "I'm at a point that would have a detrimental effect on my other big goal for the year, the Olympic Games."

An Olympic gold - or medal of any colour - is the one thing missing from Cavendish's glittering palmares, his cycling CV.

Cavendish quit the race after his first four stage wins in 2008 to switch focus to the Madison, but could finish only ninth in Beijing alongside Bradley Wiggins, despite the pair being world champions.

He vowed never to voluntarily leave the Tour early again, but now he has, demonstrating his desire for Olympic glory.

Cavendish, who was 29th in the road race on the opening day of the London 2012 Olympics, said: "To leave a race and organisation that I hold so much respect for and a team that I have such a special bond with, has not been an easy decision at all.

"I want to say thank you to them, along with all the fans for their support and encouragement, today and over the past 16 stages.

"I wish Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and all the other competitors luck in the final few days into Paris, a special place that I will definitely miss the emotions of this year."

Cavendish's one remaining Tour goal had been Sunday's finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where he won four times in a row from 2009 to 2012, but he would have had to navigate the Alps to get there.

The four remaining stages in the Alps are where the race will be won, with Cavendish's fellow Briton Chris Froome (Team Sky) in the overall lead.

Cavendish will now recuperate before joining up with the British track team at their pre-Rio holding camp in Newport.

As well as the six-discipline omnium, Cavendish is reserve rider for the four-man, four-kilometres team pursuit.

Dimension Data team principal Doug Ryder said: "Mark is really sad to leave the Tour. We are committed to support him in his dream goal of receiving a medal for Britain at the Rio Olympic games."

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