Mark Cavendish was the only member of Great Britain’s track cycling team to leave the Beijing Olympic Games empty-handed – but the Manx Missile has set his sights on setting the record straight after the London 2012 road race course was announced.
The 250km men’s race will take place on Saturday July 28, less than 24 hours after the opening ceremony, with the route tackling nine laps of a 15.5km Box Hill circuit in Surrey before heading back to the capital and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall.
“Competing in a home Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Cavendish. “To compete in the road race on the opening day of the London 2012 Games in front of home fans is going to be amazing.
“I look forward to checking out the course in detail and to experiencing the well-known cycling terrain in Surrey through to the finish on The Mall.”
London 2012 organising committee board member Jonathan Edwards officially unveiled the route atop Box Hill – an iconic, albeit relatively simple, climb for south-east cyclists.
And the Sydney 2000 Olympic triple jump champion, who remains the world record holder, insists Cavendish’s early effort holds the key to Team GB’s campaign.
“There going to be a huge amount of pressure on the British team,” said Edwards. “The public are going to expect them to do well, especially after the performance in Beijing.
“So those competitors who are going out early will feel a real sense of responsibility on their shoulders – and Mark Cavendish particularly.
“There will be a lot of focus on him to get things off to a good start and if he were to perform badly then he would feel like he has let not only himself down but the team down.
“I won my gold medal on the night that [Australian 400m runner] Cathy Freeman won her gold medal, and that sense of national pride – the whole country supporting one athlete – was amazing.”
The UCI rejected the original Olympic Games course, which took in laps of a circuit from Regent’s Park to Hampstead Heath, forcing organisers into a rethink.
The revised route has received the seal of approval from both the UCI and International Olympic Committee – but London 2012 director of sport Debbie Jevans insists the revised route wasn’t designed with Cavendish in mind.
“When we designed this course, it was the right course for the Olympic Games,” said Jevans.
“Mark will now look at it and adapt to it. No disrespect to Mark, but when we planned every twist and turn, it wasn’t with him in mind.
“The UCI were a big part of that process – but if Mark does win then we start the Games with a gold medal and that’ll be a fantastic start.”
UCI president Pat McQuaid added: “I think this route will produce an extremely exciting Olympic Games road race and, especially with the circuits of Box Hill, it will be a worthy winner of both the men’s and women’s gold medals.”