Mark Cavendish heads BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist

No surprises there - but absence of footballers, rugby players and most controversially, women is

The shortlist of ten athletes from whom the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be chosen has been unveiled, and bookmakers’ favourite, Mark Cavendish, is of course on it. Controversially, not one woman features among the ten names announced this evening.

Gary Lineker – never a winner himself, his best showing being third place in 1991 – joined Alex Jones and Matt Baker to reveal the all-male shortlist live on The One Show.

According to the bookmakers, Cavendish’s closest rival will be Open golf winner Darren Clarke, whose battled to form after a period in which his game suffered as he struggled to cope with the illness and subsequent death in 2006 of his wife, Heather.

Clarke is one of three golfers in a list on which there are not only no women, but no footballers or rugby players either, the other two being Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald.

Athletes Dai Greene and Mo Farah, cricketers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, boxer Amir Khan and perennial contender Andy Murray from the world of tennis complete the list.

The winner will be decided by public vote on the evening of Thursday 22 December when the event is screened live from the BC’s new studios in Salford.

The absence of female athletes such as heptathlete Jessica Ennis or swimmer Rebecca Adlington may be a reflection of this being a non-Olympic or Commonwealth Games year, although they did respectively clinch world championship silver and gold in their respective sports.

However, less explicable is the absence of triathlete Chrissie Wellington, who this year in Hawaii won back the Ironman world title she had previously won for three years running from 2008-10.

Wellington, like Adlington and the open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne all narrowly missed making the shortlist, compiled after the BBC canvassed the views of local and national newspaper and magazine editors.

The only cyclists besides Cavendish to have received nominations were BMX star Shanaze Reade, put forward by black community newspaper, The Voice, and Victoria Pendleton, who made the Guardian's shorlist. Triathlete Alistair Brownlee received four nominations, suggesting he wasn't far off the final ten.

Female athletes are, however, represented in the Junior Sports Personality category, including women’s junior world road champion Lucy Garner.

Cavendish is favourite to win the main award to become only the third cyclist after Tom Simpson in 1965 and Chris Hoy in 2008 to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

At the weekend, the winner of the Tour de France green jersey and the rainbow jersey in the world championship in Copenhagen, received yet another accolade when he was named Most Inspirational Sportsman of the Year at the prestigious 2011 Jaguar Academy of Sport Annual Awards.

Cavendish, whose new outfit Team Sky is of course supported by Jaguar, described winning the award as “A complete surprise! When you see some of the names that were up for nomination, it's pretty special.

“Cycling's still a growing sport, and to be a cyclist and be inspirational, that's a pretty big thing.

“For someone to watch what we do and actually appreciate it, which hasn't always been the case in the past, that's a big thing. It's a lovely evening."

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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