Mark Cavendish finally got his hands on an Olympic medal when he took silver in the omnium on Monday, and while the British rider was happy to be on the podium he conceded his impressive collection of honours is incomplete without a Games gold.
The former world road champion, who has also won the Tour de France (2011), the Milan-San Remo (2009), and is a three-times world Madison champion on the track, had put everything on the line for Rio.
The 31-year-old decided to juggle his road season with trying to gain a place on his country’s powerhouse track team but his selection was in the balance after he failed to make the podium in his chosen event, the omnium, at the world championships in London in March.
However, after sealing his spot on the team, Cavendish delivered a superb performance over two intense days of competition, eventually taking silver behind fellow road man Elia Viviani.
Cavendish said the ground he lost in Sunday’s elimination race, the third element of the six-discipline omnium, which is decided on points, had been crucial.
“I’m happy. Elia was the best guy there. If you take the points I lost in the elimination I would’ve been right with him,” Cavendish said after the points race in which he was responsible for a mid-race crash that grounded Viviani.
Cavendish’s desire to add an Olympic medal to his collection had become almost obsessive after he missed out on the Madison in 2008 with Bradley Wiggins and the road race in 2012.
His improvement in the individual 4km pursuit on Sunday compared to the London worlds was astonishing, putting him right in the mix for the medals on Monday.
He trailed by 16 points going into the final event of the competition but could not quite bring his superior sprinting prowess to bear in the 160-lap finale in the Rio velodrome.
He finished 13 points behind Viviani, and two ahead of 2012 Olympic champion Lasse Norman Hansen.
“I have got my Olympic medal. It is really nice, but gold would’ve finished the collection,” Cavendish, who won only two of the 16 sprints on offer, said.
“I did a pursuit yesterday and was unhappy I didn’t break the Olympic record, that’s just me.”
Cavendish joked that the media might now move the goalposts after he took silver: “You guys will say the only thing missing is an Olympic gold medal!”
The British team’s head coach, Iain Dyer, said Cavendish had done himself proud.
“It’s third time lucky for Cav. He deserves it. Coming back off the Tour de France, then the last throw of the dice to medal in the omnium, he did a great job,” he said.