• Michael Hepburn will leave the road for the track in a final career push for gold in Rio (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After narrowly missing out on gold at the 2012 London Olympics, track cyclist Michael Hepburn is back for another crack in Rio.
Cycling Central
26 Feb 2016 - 7:48 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2016 - 12:39 PM

When he walked away from track cycling three years ago to pursue a career on the lucrative professional circuit, Michael Hepburn always felt another attempt at Olympic glory would be possible.

"I always thought that Rio was a possibility," he said. "I'm finally back, and I'm really happy to be here."

Six months out from the Rio Games, the 24 year-old is regarded as an integral part of the Australian squad.

"[He's] one of the key ingredients that we needed to throw into the mix to set us up for possible gold in Rio," coach of Australia's men's endurance squad Tim Decker said.

Having missed out on the gold medal at the London Olympics, falling short to Great Britain in the 4000m team pursuit, Hepburn sees his return to the track as a case of unfinished business.

“The real reason I'm here is to try and turn that around and turn that silver medal into a gold medal," he said.

Hepburn's training session is a far cry from the hustle-and-bustle of the world tour, where Hepburn has competed professionally since 2013.

"The last few years have been really good on the road," he said.

"It's allowed me to build up a massive strength base. The number of race days you do a year really hardens you up as a rider."

Although Hepburn is yet to experience selection at the Tour de France, he has tasted the spoils of a Grand Tour. Hepburn has won two stages for Orica-GreenEDGE at the Giro d'Italia in the team time trial.

While he hasn't totally given up on appearing at road races in 2016, his main objective is to win in Rio.

"It's a big sacrifice," he said, referring to leaving the road scene for a year.

“As a relatively young rider on the WorldTour, it's basically a year I'm not going to develop the way I have the last couple of years."

There has been plenty of changes in the Australian endurance squad during Hepburn's absence.

One new face is Adelaide teenager Alexander Porter who will make his debut at the World Championships in London.

He's thrilled at the opportunity of wearing the Australian jersey for the first time at the elite level, while training with Hepburn is an added bonus. Porter's ambition is to one day race for a team in the World Tour.

"He's been awesome." Porter said. "Just to have the older guys like him around and to be able to feed off what he's done (in his career) is great.

"He's done exactly what I want to do."

The depth of talent at the disposal of high-performance managers and coaches is at an all time high.

"There's internal pressure, there's upward pressure constantly with the men's endurance track squad, particularly." Cycling Australia's High Performance Manager, Kevin Tabotta, said. 

"It's the strongest track endurance depth that I've seen in Australian track cycling."

The current world record for the 4000m team pursuit currently stands at 3 mins 51.659 secs, set by the British team at the London Olympics.

If conditions are perfect in Rio, Australian coach Decker says breaking the 3 mins 50 secs barrier is not out of the question.