Mark Cavendish last night got the Olympic medal he so badly craved as he took omnium silver with a gutsy ride in the points race.
A fairytale gold was not to be as the wily Italian Elia Viviani recovered from being sent sprawling by Cavendish early in the 160-lap finale of track cycling’s six-event test for the all-rounders. Viviani made perfect use of the cushion he took into the final event to nibble points at regular intervals as Cavendish found himself locked in a battle for silver with Denmark’s Lasse Hansen.
The British rider seemed initially disappointed not to have achieved the gold after the race but will be satisfied that his long quest for an Olympic medal has been achieved.
In Beijing eight years ago he was the only member of the track team not to leave China with a medal. He and Bradley Wiggins finished ninth in the Madison and Cavendish felt his partner had let him down as he admitted to be “in bits” after already enjoying a medal-laden Games.
There has been talk of more tension between the old friends in Rio but it has been downplayed by the pair and described by those who know the dynamics of British cycling as “just typical Mark and Brad”.
Cavendish had said that he felt Wiggins, who became Britain’s most decorated Olympian with gold in the team pursuit last week, had frozen him out of a chance to be in that event in fear of having to share the limelight.
That clash of egos has been put to bed, with Cavendish expressing his delight for Wiggins’ achievement and last night he finally got to experience an Olympic podium himself.
Four years after being raced out of the road race in which he had been tipped to provide Team GB’s first gold in London, the 31-year-old sprint king has enjoyed a dream summer. He achieved his dream of wearing yellow in the Tour de France as he won four stages this year to take his career tally to 30.
He pulled out the Tour with five stages left to focus on Rio and was rewarded with the silver.
Viviani finished with 207 points, Cavendish with 194 and Hansen with 192. World champion Fernando Gaviria of Colombia was fourth on 181 points.
The Manxman was sixth in the scratch race, second in the four-kilometres individual pursuit and frustrated with seventh in the elimination race after he was relegated for an illegal manoeuvre. Cavendish was third in the flying lap, the penultimate discipline, to sit second overall.
He clocked 12.793 as Kennett won a second straight discipline in 12.506.
Viviani was second in 12.660, to move to 178, 16 clear of Cavendish, who was second on 162.
Hansen was third on 152, Kennett fourth on 150, Boudat fifth on 150, O’Shea sixth on 144, Gaviria seventh on 140 and Kluge eighth on 134. That left just the concluding points race to come.
Laura Trott was well on course to defend her women’s omnium title after an imperious showing in the pursuit, in which she took five seconds off her sea-level personal best.
Earlier, Becky James and Katy Marchant made strong starts in the women’s sprint, qualifying first and second and progressing to the second round at the first attempt.
Jason Kenny has an opportunity to join Sir Chris Hoy on six gold medals and emulate the Scot’s achievement of three golds at one Games by winning tonight’s Keirin.
Meanwhile, the glittering Olympic career of Australia great Anna Meares ended in tears as her sprint title defence fizzled out. New Zealander Natasha Hansen beat her in the ride-off for ninth.
In the morning session, a tearful Meares – the long-time arch-rival of British legend Victoria Pendleton – lost her second-round repechage heat.
It was always going to be a swansong for Meares but the inquest has already begun Down Under into the wider failure of the Australian team to make the impression in the velodrome that had been expected
“I’ve revelled in the role as team flag bearer but for the first time in 22 years, my body, I just couldn’t get any more out,” said Meares.