Cavendish claims Bradley Wiggins ‘wants to be the hero’ in Rio

Mark Cavendish has expressed frustration at being overlooked for an Olympic team pursuit spot, appearing to accuse “hero” Sir Bradley Wiggins of freezing him out.

Cavendish was ninth in the Madison, alongside Wiggins, at the 2008 Games in Beijing and 29th in the road race on the opening day of London 2012. The 31-year-old has won 30 Tour de France stages and is desperate for an Olympic medal.

The six-discipline omnium in which Cavendish has been selected, and placed sixth in at the Track World Championships in London in March, is something of a lottery – while the four-rider, 4km team pursuit offers a surer prospect of a medal.

The 2012 Tour winner Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull have had the event as their sole focus for more than a year but Cavendish has not and is only likely to ride one of the three rounds if a team-mate is injured or falls ill.

“That’s the reason I left the Tour early, because of the team pursuit,” Cavendish told Sky Sports. “[For] the omnium, finishing the Tour would’ve been a benefit. It’s a little bit [disappointing] but it’s how it works.

“Especially Brad, he has been super stressed. He wants to be the hero and all that. I’m kind of just doing the omnium stuff now. That’s what I was aiming for the whole time. The team pursuit’s a bonus to that anyway.”

Cavendish’s comments could reopen old wounds with Wiggins. The pair drifted apart after the Beijing Games, when Cavendish suffered the ignominy of being the only member of the track team not to return with a medal.

Cavendish and Wiggins’ friendship was rekindled and Wiggins put in a phenomenal turn en route to Cavendish winning the road world title in Copenhagen in September 2011. He also led Cavendish to victory in Paris while wearing the Tour winner’s yellow jersey in July 2012. The duo won the non-Olympic Madison at the Track World Championships and afterwards they spoke glowingly of each other.