Irvine warns Cavendish over Rio
Mark Cavendish has been warned Olympic success is no guarantee even if he commits for the Rio de Janeiro Games, by Ireland's Martyn Irvine, who is chasing a medal himself.
British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton may have been hoping his comments that the door was almost closed for Cavendish, whose road commitments take precedence, would spark a guarantee of participation from the 29-year-old.
But claiming a medal would not be a matter of just turning up even for a rider of Cavendish's calibre, according to Irvine, the 2013 world scratch race champion who is eyeing omnium success in Brazil.
Irvine told Press Association Sport: "I don't think Cavendish has done an omnium at that kind of level.
"Even if he shows up, he probably wouldn't breeze it. I wouldn't say he'd get his eyes opened, because he's got good track skills, but it's definitely not something that can be taken lightly.
"The guys who are consistently good are guys who do a lot of omniums, a lot of track racing, and they're good across the board.
"If some fast man comes in, he could win one of the sprint events, but then he'd get tortured in an endurance event and that's him out of the running. That's the nature of that beast."
Cavendish is a 25-time Tour de France stage winner and 2011 world champion on the road.
He is twice a Madison world champion and withdrew from the 2008 Tour de France to finalise preparations for Beijing, only to finish ninth in the Madison with Bradley Wiggins.
That saw him suffer the ignominy of being the only British track rider to return from China without a medal and he vowed never to ride the track again.
He was a surprise inclusion in the British team for the 2009 Track World Championships six months later in Pruszkow, Poland, but has not raced in international colours at that level in the six years since.
The change to the omnium format, favouring bunch racers like Cavendish, has piqued his interest, but possibly not enough for him to sacrifice a whole season on the road, where he has been employed to devastating effect since his breakthrough year in 2007.
Cavendish is out of contract with Etixx-QuickStep at the end of 2015, but both parties are keen to extend, although the Belgian squad would be reluctant to allow him the time to race indoors that he would need.
Should Cavendish, who is 30 in May, miss Rio - where an undulating road race course would end his prospects - there is the distinct probability that one of Britain's greatest cyclists would finish his career without an Olympic medal.
Team Sky's Ben Swift, who preceded Irvine as scratch race world champion by winning in Melbourne in 2012, is another who is assessing his options, but he is capable of success on the Rio road course.
Irvine said: "There's two ways of looking at it. There's the pure World Tour endurance rider and then there's the specialists, like myself.
"I believe I can compete with the best on the track, I specialise for it. They can go off and race around the world all they want, but I can just drill out pursuits, kilos and flying laps and tune myself."
Irvine's preparations take place in Majorca, as there is no velodrome in Ireland.
Had things worked out differently, the 29-year-old from Newtownards might have been Britain's track contender for Rio, only he was not part of British Cycling's talent conveyor belt.
"It's just my unconventional way of doing things," he said.
"They were cherry picking 15-year-olds and I was lying under a car at that age (working as a mechanic).
"But I'm not really one for structure. I probably would've got shot out and it could've all gone horribly wrong in a controlled environment. The way I did it suited me."
Irvine hopes his round-a-bout route could yet lead to success at next week's Track World Championships in Paris and in Rio.
"I believe I've the talent in me to do that result (in Rio)," added Irvine, who has had an injury-hit season this year.
"I just need to be really selfish and plan just for that one thing.
"I wouldn't be doing it just to turn up for the kit and be another also-ran."