British champion Lizzie Armitstead suffered a setback in her early-season preparations, finishing 34th in the Tour of Flanders, but the Olympic hopeful has told the IBTimes UK in an exclusive interview that she remains on course for a place in the British road cycling team for this summer's games.
Armitstead is competing for one of four places in the road race team in July, and has impressed in the early season races. She won the inaugural edition of the women's Ghent-Wevelgem in Belgium earlier in March, her second victory of the year, but was left frustrated in Flanders last weekend after an abortive attack left her swept up on the Oude Kwaremont.
"I went with two attacks early in the race and spent my energy too early," said Armitstead. "Then when the main attack that won the race went I'd just been caught short. I was just chasing them for the rest of the race to try and bring our sprinter to the front to try and reach third but she managed fourth, so never mind."
The next four months are crucial for Armitstead as she looks to secure the team leader position for the British Olympic road race team. She'll compete in the women's 140km road-cycling event that takes competitors from The Mall, to the Box Hill loop, around Richmond Park and back, snaking through six London boroughs in a little over three hours. Olympic hopefuls Emma Pooley, Lucy Martin and Sharon Laws were also in action at the Tour of Flanders, as was reigning Olympic road race champion Nicole Cooke.
And while four will ride, only one can win the gold medal. Armitstead and Cooke are widely regarded as the front-runners for the leader's position but a disagreement between the pair has threatened to overshadow the team's preparations for the summer.
Armitstead was set up as the leader for last year's World Championships in Copenhagen, but was held up in a crash and Cooke struck out for the finish alone - leading to reports of hostility between the pair.
However, the reigning British champion, who rides for Dutch team AA Drink/leontien.nl, contends there is no animosity with Cooke and cautioned that any one of the six riders in contention for a place could lead the team in London.
"I think it's an open situation. I think the whole rivalry between Nicole Cooke and I has been blown out of proportion," said Armitstead, an ambassador for the Hornby Official London 2012 range.
"The discussion was that I was the leader in Copenhagen and it didn't go to plan. I've never suggested that I want to be the out-and-out leader in London because it's a different course and it's a different race so I think we'll try and keep as many options as we can for the course.
"I think [the incident with Cooke] was a case of saying one thing in an interview and then journalists have kind of grabbed hold of it ever since."
Nevertheless, this summer's road race course is expected to favour the sprint riders in the team, a factor Armitstead believes could work in her favour.
"London is potentially a sprinter's course so they'll select riders who are good at sprinting, and not necessarily riders that would suit a more mountainous kind of course," she told BBC Radio 5 live's London Calling programme.
"Selection is on 7 June and that's pretty late. That's why I'm trying to peak now, in order to have some results for them to select me on something."
Armitstead was spotted as a 16-year-old after a talent identification programme visited her secondary school in Yorkshire. She quickly impressed on both the track and road, narrowly missing out on the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 before winning the British National Road Race Championships last year.
And now the 23-year-old is targeting Olympic gold, but she remains philosophical about her chances in London and asserts she will not allow the late decision over the leader of the race team affect her training schedule.
"I'm just training as if I'm being selected because if you are chasing results too much now, and thinking about getting selected for the seventh of June you'd be peaking then but the Olympics isn't until five weeks later," Armitstead added.
"So you have to prepare as if you're going and if you don't, then never mind."
Hornby is an official product manufacturer of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead is the company's brand ambassador. For more information on Hornby's Team GB Scalextric Velodrome Cycling set and range of London 2012 toys, visit www.hornby.com/2012.