LONDON (Reuters) - Mark Cavendish can handle three weeks at the Tour de France and still contend for track gold at the Rio Olympics, according to one of his former coaches at Team Sky.
The sprinter, winner of 26 Tour stages and hoping to add to that figure when the race begins on Saturday in Normandy, has never claimed an Olympic medal and will compete in the omnium in the Rio velodrome in August.
Three weeks hard riding toward Paris will not affect his medal chances in Brazil though, says Rod Ellingworth, Cavendish's coach in the build-up to London 2012 and the man who steered him to the world road title in 2011.
"It's doable,"Ellingworth said in The Times on Friday. "Road and track ambitions can work side by side. He knows he will get stronger by later in the summer."
Cavendish now rides for Team Dimension Data, the African outfit that has built a team with a view to supporting the Manxman in his hunt for more Tour stage wins.
This year's route features some tortuous climbs but Ellingworth expects Cavendish, who has previously struggled on mountain stages, to still be part of the peloton when it arrives in Paris for the final sprint -- which he has won four times.
"Whether or not Cav agrees to finish the Tour, the one thing I know about him is that he can soak up the work as well as anybody," he said.
Cavendish won three stages of the 2012 Tour when riding for Team Sky but suffered Olympic disappointment a few weeks later when he failed to medal in the road race.
With Rio's road course not best suited to his style, he has switched his focus to the track and will hope to improve on the sixth place he achieved in the multi-event omnium at the worlds in London this year.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by John Stonestreet)