PARIS - Reuters
Cyclist Mark Cavendish (R) will be the main medal hope for the Team GB, coming to the 2012 London Olympic Games with the ‘world champion’ tag. EPA photo
Mark Cavendish will bear a huge responsibility when he starts the road race at the London Olympics as the world champion looks to kick off Britain’s party on home soil before his team mates try to take the velodrome by storm.
Four years after Team GB’s impressive medal haul on the Beijing track, world champion Cavendish is the overwhelming favourite on the 250-km road race, which will award one of the very first medals of the July 27-Aug. 12 Games.
Britain will face stern competition from Australia on the road and the track, while France, Germany and the United States are also bringing strong contingents to London. The BMX and mountain bike events are wide open.
Cavendish, who shed four kilos in order to make it easier to climb Box Hill, which the peloton will tackle nine times, is likely to battle it out for gold against Andre Greipel of Germany and Matthew Goss of Australia.
Cavendish won the test event on the circuit last year but this time, instead of eight team mates to help him he will only have four. One of those will be David Millar, who was picked by team principal David Brailsford after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a British Olympic Association lifetime ban on former drug cheats.
“The road race is extremely important because it’s one of the first events with one of UK’s top sport personalities,” said Millar.Different challengers
Australian Goss said the Olympic competition would provide different challengers for the riders.
“Mark is a huge favorite and I don’t think pressure will be an issue. He can handle pressure,” said Goss.
Emma Pooley and Bradley Wiggins also have medal chances on the time trial, but Britain’s hopes are much higher on the track where in 2008, Team GB claimed seven out of 10 titles.
The velodrome crowd, however, could be celebrating success for Chris Hoy again as the four-times Olympic champion is the hot favorite for the keirin event ahead of Australian Shane Perkins.