British cyclist Mark Cavendish has hinted at behind-the-scenes tensions with Great Britain teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins. The 31-year-old rider was expected to feature alongside the former Tour de France winner in the men's 4km team pursuit at Rio 2016, but has decided to back out of the team, saying Sir Bradley "wants to be the hero".
The duo have endured an up and down relationship through the years, and Cavendish has now suggested he was misled into quitting the 2016 Tour de France to join the team's holding camp in Newport, Wales. Cavendish – who is also set to compete in the omnium, the six-discipline event, in Brazil – suggested Sir Bradley played an instrumental role in the decision.
Asked whether he might be making an appearance in the team pursuit, Cavendish told Sky Sports: "Probably not, unfortunately." He continued: "If I'm honest, that's the reason I left the Tour early, because of the team pursuit. [For] the omnium, finishing the Tour would've been a benefit. But I think the lads have been training together. If something happens to them then I'll ride.
"Brad has been super-stressed. He wants to be the hero and all that. I'm kind of just doing the omnium stuff now, I think."
Cavendish admitted he was disappointed by the situation, but insisted his main focus was always on the omnium. "It is a little bit [disappointing], but it's how it works," he reflected. "At the end of the day I qualified in the Olympics for the omnium anyway, so I'll concentrate on the omnium. That's what I was aiming for the whole time. The team pursuit's a bonus to that anyway."
Cavendish and Sir Bradley are the two best-known riders in Britain's track cycling squad, but have endured a turbulent relationship through the years. Sir Bradley, 36, has previously described Cavendish as like his "little brother", yet the duo did not speak for months after finishing eighth in the Madison at the 2008 Games in Beijing. They have, however, since worked together successfully, winning the world title in March.
Cavendish's decision to quit the Tour de France early this year cost him the chance of winning a fifth stage in the 2016 edition on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The Dimension Data rider has won 30 Tour stages during his career, meaning he is just four wins behind the all-time leading rider, Belgium's Eddy Merckx.