London Spy

British medal hopes: Mark Cavendish (cycling)

London Spy

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Cavendish races in the Milan-San Remo Classic

The most decorated British road cyclist of all time and arguably one of the finest sprinters in history, Cavendish goes into the men's Olympic road race on the back of a year of unprecedented personal success.

He won five stages at the Tour de France last July — taking his career total to 20 — on the way to claiming the coveted green jersey and then added the world champion's rainbow jersey in Copenhagen in September. The latter followed one of the finest examples of teamwork ever seen in road cycling combined with a virtuoso example of sprinting by Cavendish, who claimed the title on the line.

Perhaps more pertinently, though, he also won the Olympic road race test event in London in August, confirming his status as favourite for an event that could deliver Britain's first gold medal of the Games.

It will all come down to whether the British team can deliver Cavendish close to the front of the peloton with 500 metres to go.

Should they do that, as they did so admirably in Copenhagen, the past five years have shown that no other cyclist in the world can live with Cavendish's extraordinary speed.

His initial burst of pace is usually enough to kill off the competition, but the Team Sky rider has a secret weapon in the form of what he calls a "second kick" which, when combined with his low and aerodynamic riding position, has repeatedly proved too much for his rivals.

He's also a big-stage performer and is unlikely to be fazed by the Olympic limelight.

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Five Mark Cavendish facts:

His personal website greets users thus: Mark Cavendish. Fastest man on two wheels. Fact.

Cavendish used to be a ballroom dancer, even dancing in the British junior championships

He worked in a bank for two years after leaving school as he attempted to turn professional

The 'Manx Missile' was made an MBE for 'Services to British Cycling' in 2011

He was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year

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