The latest Mixed Terrain column from Brendan Gallagher is here, looking at the recent track racing exploits of Mark Cavendish and discussing Six Day racing.

WILL HE, WON'T HE? I was intrigued by Shane Sutton's strong hints that Mark Cavendish is having a serious think about throwing his hat into the ring for the Olympic Omnium at the Rio Olympics in 2016.  The man himself was playing a very straight bat at the Ghent Six last week although his mere presence back on the boards at that brilliant annual carnival of bikes, beers and burgers could be construed by the hopeful as a clue of sorts.

Word is filtering through that the Olympic road race is unlikely to be sprinter friendly. The terrain around Rio is coastal and pretty lumpy and a sprinters course would be difficult to conjure up so if Cavendish wants to fill the one big hole in his extraordinary palmares – an Olympic medal, preferably Gold – he probably needs to reignite his track career.


Above – Mark Cavendish prepares for the Ghent Six with partner Iljo Keisse, in which the duo would finish second / Photo thanks to Omega Pharma Quick-Step/Tim de Waele

Another factor is that the 2016 World Road Race Championship venue Qatar – normally as flat as a pancake – have reportedly been tasked with building a hilly course so that is possibly not going to be the Cavendish friendly course Great Britain once hoped for either.

So there are possibly decisions to be made. Twice a Madison World Champion Cavendish is a very considerable track performer although its 2008 since he last devoted any serious time and energy to the sport. It's been Tour de France and road glory all the way.

The big game changer in this equation recently though has been the latest change of format in the Omnium, which without over-complicating matters – it would take fully 20 minutes to explain in detail – adds massive importance to the final event of the six disciplines, which will now be the Points Race.

Henceforth, having accumulated points by virtue of your position in the previous five disciplines, the actual points you score in the Points Race will be added to your competition total so if you have a storming Points Race you could quickly race up the rankings and into medal contention. For the likes of Cavendish and indeed other GB road racers with a track background such as Ben Swift – a former World Silver medal winner in the Points – the Omnium suddenly looks quite an attractive proposition.

It's a complicated scenario though. Firstly the UCI need to spell out whether – as has always been the case – an Omnium rider is required to be part of his nation's Team Pursuit squad. That is a huge factor with any GB rider because the Team Pursuit is the flagship of the entire team and are always expected to be in Gold medal contention, even if at present it is slightly in the doldrums. 

At the elite level which the GB squad rides there is every chance that a team will make at least one change of personnel in an Olympic competition – either tactical or to rest a key rider – while injury and illness is always just around the corner.   The fifth man therefore is massively important, it’s not a nominal selection.  He needs to be able to drop into the squad in an instant, ride almost anywhere in the line-up and be capable of going 3.50 or quicker which is certainly what will be required to win the Gold medal in Rio.

If Cavendish is required to be that fifth man he will need to start committing to the track, in some significant way, after next year's Tour de France but even if the UCI ease the situation by allowing the Omnium rider to be selected independently the pressure will be on.  

In that eventuality Cavendish would be expected to ride in World Cup and World Championships Omniums to help secure the qualifying points. The three bunch races – Scratch, Elimination and Points – will come naturally to Cavendish, as will the Flying Lap,  but you can not totally discount the other two disciplines.  

You can't afford to be too far behind going into that final Points race so attention must be paid to maximising performance in the 4km Individual Pursuit and the Kilo. He will need to get into wind tunnels and get his position right as well as his fitness. That will take time and effort. You can take the latter for granted but the former has to be scheduled in. 

There is of course a third way of approaching this, unless the UCI close the loophole.  What Great Britain might possibly consider is replicating what France did at the 2012 Olympics although the French were much criticised for it, namely nomiate one of their their track riders in the road race team.

On that occasion France's Keirin specialist Mickael Bourgain – and their first reserve for the Team Sprint – was nominated in the road race team for the opening day and caused something of an uproar when he dropped out after just 3km of the 250km race when he was picked up by a team car and whisked back to the athletes village where he watched the rest of the race on TV. As a move it backfired on that occasion because he failed to qualify for the final and finished only eighth in the consolation Final.

Great Britain could do something similar for Cavendish but such a scenario would be much more complicated and fraught.  Cavendish is of course a world class road racer, a former World Champion, and although it seems like the Rio course might not suit him he would be well capable of burying himself in a team role for say three quarters of the distance. 

But to be fit enough to achieve that would he have to compromise his track fitness?  And if he didn't adopt a genuine team role would a five man British road team, including riders who potentially had a shot at the Gold medal, be happy including one rider who is primarily there for the track competition. Like I say it's very complicated but GB generally make a virtue of finding a way to overcome such challenges.

Take all that into account and I don’t see though how Cavendish can race the road in any serious way in 2016 before Rio and compete for an Olympic Gold on the track.  Is he willing to do that?  Yes, I rather fancy he is. Will Omega Pharma Quick-Step – or another team if he decides to move – accommodate those needs?   Yes I suspect they will; he is Mark Cavendish after all.  So my advice would be to watch this space!

Below – Mark Cavendish, alongside Ghent Six partner Iljo Keisse, speaking to the media ahead of his track racing return in Belgium last week / Photo thanks to Omega Pharma Quick-Step/Tim de Waele



CONTINUING with the track, well it is that time of year! It’s high time Britain hosted a Six Day event again, a pipe dream of many including Tony Doyle – one of the world's best in his time – who has come close to pulling it off on a couple of occasions but has been thwarted every time. 

Anybody who has ever been to the Ghent Six, which finished on Sunday, will know what a great but very special event a proper Six can be. Getting the ambience and setting right though is absolutely everything and therein lays many of the problems.


The Sixes feature high quality track action on a seemingly endless eight hour loop but essentially it is the backdrop to a huge party. At best it only shares top billing with the bars, the beers, the ad hoc restaurants and nightclubs, the bike stands, the stalls groaning with kit and memorabilia, the books stalls, the Wattbike challenges and so on.

It's a late night gig, totally indulgent and to be honest not one for the kids.  Fancy dress costumes if you wish, drinking ale to excess, yarning with your mates in a quiet corner, ear splitting disco beats down on the track  and watching bike racing at well past midnight. It simply doesn't work in daylight hours, it's all about defying winter and is gloriously decadent and the British could undoubtedly be world leaders given a chance. I’m surprised we didn’t invent it to be honest. 

But here's the thing. It won't work stuck out at London Velodrome which would undoubtedly be touted as the best venue. No.  You need a venue where taxis are readily available at all times or where possibly even a skeleton bus service runs through most the night. You need a venue where punters – some the worse for wear – can quickly make their way back to city centre hotels to rest their weary heads and prepare for the next evening's action.  For me only Manchester and Glasgow really fulfil those criteria. Bring it on I say!