Sir Bradley Wiggins insists there is no rift between himself and Mark Cavendish – and says the Manx rider will partner him in the final event of his career, the Ghent Six in November.
Ahead of Wiggins helping Team GB win the team pursuit in Rio for the third Olympics running, it was reported that Cavendish felt he had been “frozen out” of the squad.
Cavendish was targeting the omnium, where he took silver behind Italy’s Elia Viviani, but as the fifth member of the men’s endurance squad would have won team pursuit gold had he ridden in any of the rounds and Team GB gone on to triumph.
Wiggins, who rides next month’s Tour of Britain as will Cavendish, insisted that the latter’s absence from the team pursuit was based purely on selecting the right men for the job of defending the title.
That’s not me freezing him out or anything,” he told Telegraph.co.uk. “As much as I’d love Mark in there with me, we’ve got to be brutally honest about this, it’s about winning gold.
“We’ve worked our arses off for this and what, we’re going to accommodate someone? And that wasn’t just me, it was Ed Clancy too, who’s a huge leader in that team, but of course it makes more of a story if it’s like ‘Brad froze him out’.”
Asked who would partner him in Ghent – the city he was born in 36 years ago – Wiggins said: “Cav. I’m not aware that there’s a problem.”
Whether there is or not now, the relationship between the pair has been strained at times in the past.
In 2008 after Cavendish cut short his participation in the Tour de France to focus on the Olympics, he and Wiggins finished ninth and out of the medals in the Madison, an event in which they were reigning world champions at the time.
Several weeks later Wiggins, who had already won gold in the team and individual pursuits at those Games, would admit to the Guardian: “Cav is like my little brother and I love him dearly. But we left the stadium without saying a word to each other and we've yet to speak."
The pair rode together at Team Sky during the 2012 Tour de France, with Wiggins in the yellow jersey leading Cavendish, in the rainbow bands of world champion, onto the Champs-Elysees to set him up for victory in the race’s final stage.
After signing for Omega Pharma-Quick Step later that year, Cavendish expressed his frustration to Telegraph.co.uk that Sky hadn’t targeted the green points jersey which he had won in the previous year’s Tour de France, and instead focused only on the general classification.
Cavendish insisted he was used as a “back-up rider” and said “we [Sky] didn't achieve what I thought we were setting out to achieve at the start of the season,” adding, "Sky should have taken both jerseys. We could have done that without any risk or detriment to the yellow jersey. It's frustrating."
In March this year, as Cavendish continued his campaign for Olympic selection, he and Wiggins partnered once again in the Madison when the track world championships were held in London – and in a rousing finale to the event, triumphed to repeat their victory of eight years earlier.
In Rio, Cavendish refused to be drawn on discussing his relationship with Wiggins and omission from the team pursuit, saying: “Whatever I say now would be clickbait. The lads won gold and I was over the moon for them.”
But despite Team GB denying there was a problem between the two riders, as Cavendish waited to be interviewed by the BBC after winning omnium silver, microphones picked him up saying: “They’d be straight on for Brad, wouldn’t they?”
Wiggins didn’t view that as a personal barb, however. “That wasn’t necessarily a dig at me – although people said it was,” he maintained.
“I think, rather, he’s got a chip on his shoulder because he feels he doesn’t get the same recognition for what he’s achieved, which I completely understand. But we’re all good.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.