Some time ago, Cyclostats speculated on a dream omnium in which the best endurance riders in Britain would race each other to determine who really is the best all rounder on the track. This past weekend in Derby, we got as close as we might ever get to the real thing as many of GB’s top riders faced off over six events. In particular, the contest brought together GB’s most successful omnium rider in Ed Clancy, its most recent hope for the event in Jon Dibben and its theoretical superstar of the event, the great Mark Cavendish. As it was, Clancy came out on top in a thrilling contest , with Cav in second and Dibben in fourth, one spot behind the promising Chris Latham,
The most intriguing aspect was seeing how Cavendish performed against the clock. As far as we can tell, Cav has not competed in a flying lap, a kilo or a IP since he was a junior. In most cases, his times were close to what we expected. A 4:26 in the IP was probably on the better side of what we anticipated given his limited preparation time. He supposedly went low 4:20s in training prior to the Beijing Olympics but he was in peak track form back then. He just missed out on Pete Kennaugh’s Manx record and moved to 21st spot of the all-time GB list. His 13.352 flying lap, including a 10.619 200, was right on par and represented an Isle of Man record – the first time a Manx man has been sub-11 in fact. His kilo came in at 1:05.282, which was solid, and another Manx best, supplanting Joe Kelly. Ironically, it was the bunch events which cost Cav victory over Clancy. We expected the Scratch to be Cavendish’s forte, but he placed down the field in that first event, and it was always going to be a tough road back. Latham performed particularly badly in the Scratch, and had he managed even a mid-pack finish, he would have challenged Clancy for victory.
So what does it all mean for GB’s Omnium selection? Probably not too much. There was enough in Cav’s debut to encourage him to have another go, but there are still huge question marks as to whether he can mix the Olympics with his road schedule. In any case he’ll need significant improvement to challenge at World level. One can easily imagine him challenging the best in the Scratch and even the elimination and points race, but he’ll need to find more on the timed events too. He placed well in those in Derby, but if you compare times were those set at the World champs, he’d have been well outside the top 10 in both the lap and kilo, and that would likely spell the end of his overall hopes in Rio. Clancy, therefore, remains the safest bet, but it will be interesting to see if GB experiments with Latham or even Matt Gibson during the World Cup season.