Mark Cavendish set to join Team Sky for 2012 season

Manx Missile to hook up with Great Britain team mates reports Daily Mail… so it must be true

by Simon_MacMichael   June 16, 2011  

Mark Cavendish gives his thoughts on 2011 Tour de France route © Simon MacMichael

Mark Cavendish is reportedly set to join Team Sky from HTC-Highroad for the 2012 season. Neither party has yet confirmed the news, with Team Sky saying that it will not comment on transfers until 1 August, while Cavendish said on Twitter that he is committed to HTC for the rest of this season.

The news was broken by Richard Moore, writing in the Daily Mail. The journalist is very close to Team Sky - his book, Sky's The Limit, following its first season, has just been published, making him a highly reliable source when it comes to issues surrounding the British ProTeam.

News of Cavendish's potential move came just hours after world cycling's governing body, the UCI, announced that it was relaxing transfer regulations to make it possible for riders to switch teams mid-season.

However, as mentioned above, Cavendish appears likely to see out the remainder of his contract with HTC-Highroad.

Last year, it was reported that the sprinter was unhappy with the fact that his earnings and bonuses at the US-based team had not been adjusted to reflect the success he has achieved over the last couple of years.

At the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Cavendish said: "I’m committed to a contract I signed a few years ago (but) there’s been no goodwill, no bonuses, nothing." He added that he thought he was "kind of abused for what I’ve achieved."

Money is unlikely to be an issue at Team Sky. The contract that has reportedly been offered to Cavendish reportedly sets his value at £1.5 million a year. Other teams with deep pockets rumoured to have been interested in Cavendish's signature in recent months include Katusha and the new Australian GreenEdge team.

Where the British ProTeam will have a problem is in convincing fans that signing Cavendish, who at HTC-Highroad has benefited from having a team built around him in Grand Tours, helping him secure 25 stage wins in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta, can be reconciled with its stated aim when it launched in late 2009 of getting a British rider to win the Tour de France within the next five years.

That Team Sky possesses riders capable of forming as strong a leadout train as Cavendish has enjoyed up till now is in little doubt. This season, Ben Swift in particular has benefited from a more aggressive approach from Team Sky in chasing down breaks and taking control of races in the closing kilometres, helping him to stage wins in the Tour Down Under, Amgen Tour of California, and Tour de Romandie.

Moreover, should he join Sky, many of his fellow riders, assuming they are all still there next season, will be ones Cavendish will know well from riding alongside in the past, whether as part of the GB set-up or professionally at HTC-Highroad in its various previous incarnations, with past team mates there including Bradley Wiggins and Michael Barry.

At the same time, the future of two of those former Highroad team mates would be put into question if Cavendish did indeed join - Greg Henderson and Edvald Boasson Hagen, both of whom moved to Team Sky in the first place partly to move out of his shadow and gain opportunites they wouldn't otherwise have got due to their former team's focus on the Manxman.

Last year, Team Principal Dave Brailsford said that Team Sky wanted to move away from its "one rider, one race" focus in its debut season which saw it concentrate on Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France. If it is to stick to that approach, that means that some kind of compromise would need to be reached between Wiggins' podium aspirations and Cavendish's pursuit of the green jersey.

It could be, however, that moving to Team Sky might signal the start of a new phase in the 26-year-old Cavendish's career, with a new generation of sprinters coming through ready to challenge him, including Team Sky's own Ben Swift and Davide Appolonio, who ran him very close at the Giro, as well as Matt Goss, this year's Milan-San Remo winner, and Germany's John Degenkolb, who won two stages in last week's Dauphiné.

The latter pair, team mates of Cavendish at HTC-Highroad, both stand to gain if Cavendish should leave the team, although in Goss's case Greenedge is also likely to want to secure his services.

While his main aims for the next year, besides continuing to pick up stage wins in next month's Tour de France, are the World Championships and next year's Olympics, Cavendish has also hinted that he might want to concentrate more on the Spring Classics, and he has proved his pedigree not only by winning the 2009 Milan-San Remo but also by taking the Scheldeprijs in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Off the road, joining Team Sky would also reunite Cavendish with many of those who helped guide him through his early years in the sport through the British Academy with whom he continues to work as part of the GB set-up, something that shouldn't be overlooked with the Olympic Games a little over 12 months away.

Assuming the deal is done and dusted, it's likely that Team Sky would announce Cavendish's signing on or soon after 1 August, the earliest date permitted by the UCI, and sanctions would apply if it did jump the gun and formally announce a signing before then.

There are some parallels with the flow of news ahead of Bradley Wiggins being confirmed as joining the team in late 2009, although unlike Cavendish he still had another year left on his contract with Garmin-Transitions, complicating the issue, Coming from a credible source with close ties to Team Sky, the story has a ring of truth while at the same time being deniable if needs be.

Moreover, with the news being reported ahead of the Tour de France and presented as a fait accompli, it should go a long way towards removing the speculation over Cavendish's future that would otherwise have overshadowed his participation in the race.

That might even be welcomed by HTC-Highroad which appears to be resigned to the fact that Cavendish will be moving on when his contract expires at the end of this season and whose owner Bob Stapleton is currently busy with trying to find a replacement sponsor for HTC, which is reportedly severing ties with the team at the end of this season.

Even if Cavendish didn't join Team Sky until next season, his first race alongside many of his new colleagues would be at the World Championships in Copenhagen in September, where Great Britain is currently on course to qualify a full complement of nine riders, most of whom would be likely to come from the ProTeam outfit.

 

15 user comments

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Not the best move for Sky IMHO. Can Sky really build a lead out train for Cav and do GC? That is an almost impossible balance.

posted by othello [277 posts]
16th June 2011 - 9:47

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othello, my first thought too, but I'll be interested to see them try. Cav is adept at McEwen style train-hopping when the need arises, and anyway nothing is set in stone.

In terms of personnel it seems Sky is merging further with Team GB (though not forgetting some talented riders from beyond our shores). For British cycling fans this is surely a good thing.

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posted by Simon E [11 posts]
16th June 2011 - 9:55

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Brad once said he did not want to be just a lead out man for Cav, they then went their seperate ways.

antonio

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posted by antonio [904 posts]
16th June 2011 - 10:04

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How does this get them towards their stated objective of having a British winner of the TDF within 5 years ?

And apart from Wiggins, what about Boassen-Hagen or Geraint Thomas ? What happens to them in a team that will have to be built around Cavendish.

Yes he can sometimes hop onto another wheel but that's not the way to get 15 stage wins in the TDF. That's not the percentage game. To be consistently successful a sprinter needs a team who can chase down breaks and keep the pace high on the run-in and Cav has mostly had that for the past three years. He would be lucky to have won half the victories without his team, which is why he is way ahead of people like Boonen and Hushovd.

I'm beginning to think Brailsford is losing the plot here, or the sponsors are telling him to forget about the long-term aims and get some high-profile short-term victories.

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posted by abudhabiChris [487 posts]
16th June 2011 - 10:33

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Sky do seem to be diversifying their aims this season a bit though, so perhaps there is room in a big squad for an A and a B team - Appollonio or Swift riding the Giro or Tour of California for example, with EBH, Flecha & Thomas in the classics, etc. Agree that it's difficult to focus on the 2 things in 1 race (ie the Tour) though.

Perhaps it's a longer-term view - Wiggins probably only has a couple of years left as a potential GC contender so 2013 Sky could look more like 2010 HTC.

posted by msw [125 posts]
16th June 2011 - 10:45

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Seems surprising that Richard Moore would write this story, given that he is close to Sky. You might think that it could damage his relationship with them. Maybe someone else was about to leak the news.

(Having read a story on the Daily Mail site I now feel dirty.)

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1315 posts]
16th June 2011 - 10:59

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the other possibility is that Cav is looking long term, i've seen that in previous interviews he secretly wants to win some of the cobbled classics (Roubaix?).

Some one like Boonen changed across fairly early on (mid 30's), it's not something that would be immediate but worth thinking about

posted by sam_bennett [53 posts]
16th June 2011 - 11:10

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cat1commuter wrote:
Seems surprising that Richard Moore would write this story, given that he is close to Sky. You might think that it could damage his relationship with them. Maybe someone else was about to leak the news.

Perhaps it's because he is so close to the team that he is the very person who broke the news.

As we say in the expanded article, Sky would be breaking rules by announcing anything before 1 August.

A well-placed article by a friendly journalist gets round that issue, though - and a team sponsored by the world's biggest news organisation is going to be good at playing the media.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7677 posts]
16th June 2011 - 11:49

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I'm sure it makes no difference to Cav, but I'll be rooting for another sprinter in this year's Tour. First he accepts a gong from that bunch in London, now he is taking Murdoch's shilling. Presumbly Sky will keep his mouth on a shorter leash than HTC have been until now, so no more off-message tweets and fewer surly post-race interviews, more's the pity.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
16th June 2011 - 12:22

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handlebarcam wrote:
First he accepts a gong from that bunch in London

Oh come on. Whatever anyone's personal views are on the rights and wrongs of the honours system or those who compile it, his detractors would have seized on him turning down an MBE as further evidence of his perceived stroppiness.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7677 posts]
16th June 2011 - 12:42

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As said by everyone else - it's a LONG time since a team has been able to produce multiple sprint wins and or green jersey and a yellow jersey. IMHO it was one of the big problems at T-Mobile/Telekom etc, trying to get the green for Zabel and Yellow for Ullrich. It's why I think the year Ullrich rode for that Bianchi team, his overall was better.

Don't like Cav and would hate to see him spoil the dynamics of Team Sky especially as they seem to be really settling in to how to work together now.

BUT from the point of view of promotion for Sky it's an advertisers dream come true. But probably not a DSs?!

Let's hope Katusha or another sprint team with BIG bucks make him an offer he can't refuse.

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posted by bikeandy61 [370 posts]
16th June 2011 - 12:44

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I'm also concerned that it could affect GTs role in the team. As was said above, Wiggo may only be looking at another 2 or 3 years but by then, and the way he seems to be coming on, I would like to think that G will be shaping up nicely as a podium, if not yellow TdF rider. Again to my mind Cav will get in the way unless he (and the team) really commit to the spring classics and ommitting riding the Tour, which I doubt.

And unlike what was also said above, I can't say that I am happy about Team GB being Team Sky. I have to admit that I am not interested in the Olympics and I get a little annoyed that "we" are now in a period of excellent road riders with massive potential. But then along comes the big O and they all revert back to the track. While the track no doubt has played a massive part in this progress I think it hinders the road career to keep going back to it. Yes we all know that Eddie and previous grand tour riders managed both, but we are in a different era. My interest is in cycling and to me the Olympics is a distraction. I am far more impressed with riders of the classics, Tours and World Champs. Th eOlympics for me is a blind alley.

Fewee, and relax.

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posted by bikeandy61 [370 posts]
16th June 2011 - 13:25

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bikeandy61 wrote:
It's why I think the year Ullrich rode for that Bianchi team, his overall was better.

Well, either that or he laid off the cakes (and the ecstasy), or he sought the advice of a certain Spanish gynecologist...

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
16th June 2011 - 13:42

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Oh come on. Whatever anyone's personal views are on the rights and wrongs of the honours system or those who compile it, his detractors would have seized on him turning down an MBE as further evidence of his perceived stroppiness.

I'm not saying he should be banned or anything, just that he won't have my support. Because I prefer stroppiness to obsequiousness and corporate soullessness.

And I don't want Sky buying the rights to the Tour de France (let's face it, they could probably out-bid ITV4 just using the lost change down the back of Rupert Murdoch's sofa) and taking it off terrestrial TV in the UK.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
16th June 2011 - 13:49

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A good point. It's been bad enough having to listen to the Chuckle Brothers over on Eurosport all week commenting on TDS without cycling getting swallowed by Sky. Sean Kelly accepted I'm looking toward to the return of Phil Liggert in two weeks. Now that's someone who deserves a gong....

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [976 posts]
18th June 2011 - 22:17

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