Mark Cavendish's 2012 plans still unclear as rumours grow of Team Sky stumbling block

Omega Pharma-Quick Step said to be in line for world champ's signatiure, but situation is a complicated one

by Simon_MacMichael   October 4, 2011  

TOB 2011 London 01 Cav pre start © Simon MacMichael.jpg

With the 2011 road racing season heading towards its conclusion, there’s still no news on where world champion Mark Cavendish will be riding in 2012, with speculation building in recent days that his rumoured move to Team Sky has hit a stumbling block and that he may instead make a surprise move to the Belgian team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

Team Sky provided six members of the British team that helped Cavendish win the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen, and also employs members of the British Cycling set-up including the Manxman’s own personal coach Rod Ellingworth, who spent the last three year’s masterminding the project that resulted in victory in Copenhagen.

With Cavendish’s chief goal for 2012 being winning gold in the road race at the London Olympics, a switch to Team Sky would appear to be as near a certainty as you’d find in sport – or at least in a sport less complicated than professional cycling.

The fact is, that since news of the 26-year-old’s proposed move was first broken back in June by journalist Richard Moore, someone who is particularly close to Team Sky, there have been a number of significant changes involving both parties.

First, there is Bob Stapleton’s decision to shut down the HTC-Highroad team, meaning that staying put isn’t an option for Cavendish. As a rider, he’s renowned for the meticulous preparation he puts into races he is targeting to win, so you’d not expect him to rush into signing for the first team that made him a decent offer.

Secondly, Cavendish’s stock has continued to rise. Since June, he’s won both the points jersey in the Tour de France, and the world champion’s rainbow jersey. If Sport Pro magazine ranked him the world’s 35th most marketable athlete back in May, he has to be inside the top 20 now. That means he has more bargaining power than ever before with both sponsors and prospective employers.

Moreover, as of late last month, he has a new agency working on his behalf to negotiate those deals – the Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group. As a global agency, and one not confined to the narrow world of professional cycling, Wasserman will be in a position to help Cavendish assess his worth as an internationally recognised sportsman, not just as a cyclist.

Then, there’s the impact of transfers already announced that would appear to take teams previously linked to Cavendish, albeit ones with deep pockets, out of the running for his signature.

BMC Racing may have a habit of picking up world champions as though they’re going out of fashion, but with Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert – a comparative rarity on the team since he can’t sport the rainbow bands on his sleeves – joining Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, their shopping spree appears to be over even if they somehow could make Cavendish fit into that line-up.

As for the next year’s debutant outfit GreenEdge, another team with which Cavendish has been linked, they’ve signed his HTC-Highroad team mate, Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss, the man who finished second to him in Copenhagen. It’s difficult to see an Australian team with a confirmed Australian sprinting talent go for Cavendish at this stage.

The situation with Team Sky is also perhaps more complicated than it was back in June. Some saw the rumours of Cavendish joining the team as a kind of admission by the team’s management that its original aim – getting a British rider onto the top step of a Grand Tour podium – was too ambitious.

Last month’s performance in the Vuelta by Bradley Wiggins, who finished third, and even more so by runner-up Chris Froome, who has since signed a new contract with the British team, has changed that; Team Sky have proved without doubt that they can compete in a three-week Grand Tour, and they can build on that.

That in itself potentially changes the dynamics of the situation from Cavendish’s point of view; can he have confidence that a team will be fully behind his own ambitions to win another Tour de France green jersey, say, if going into the final week of the race it is looking to defend another rider’s place on GC?

The Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, has today reported that while Cavendish was said to have agreed an oral contract with Team Sky, nothing has been put in writing; Team Principal Dave Brailsford is quoted as describing the situation as “complicated.”

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, meanwhile, has Omega Pharma-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere playing down rumours that Cavendish is headed its way, speculation that has been fuelled by a number of factors including HTC-Highroad directeur sportive Brian Holm joining the Belgian team.

Further complicating the issue is that Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be riding Specialized bikes next year, although as pointed out on the Inner Ring blog, the initial press release from the bike company has mysteriously disappeared (the comments to the blog post also make illuminating reading regarding the wealth of competing interests involved in any potential transfer).

Back at Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lefevere has admitted to Het Nieuwsblad that he spoke to Cavendish’s team mate and close friend Bernie Eisel, who appears almost certain to go to the same team as the Manxman, and who told him that he and Cavendish had been signed by Sky.

Whether or not that is true, until there is official confirmation one way or another – and there needs to be by 20 October, when the transfer window comes to a close - speculation regarding the world champion’s future will persist.

24 user comments

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Sky provided not five but six GB team members for Cav, didn't they? Only Cav and Millar were non-Sky riders.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1329 posts]
4th October 2011 - 17:02

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I thought Sky was a done deal and if it turns out he doesn't go to Sky, i can see it being because of money, If he's got some high flying agency in on the case, then money talks and now he is worth a fair bit being the world champion, so will that have gone to his head and now he's trying to be to greedy?

What if all the teams decide, nah, he's taking the piss with his wage demands and no-one takes him on, now that i would like to see Devil

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posted by Gkam84 [8668 posts]
4th October 2011 - 17:28

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Well that's not going to happen Gkam, the point here is about sponsorship not wages I'd say.

Cav is a very marketable property right now and he could probably make enough money in sponsorship to race for free if he wanted to - that's going to be the rub with Sky, they like to have complete control over all those aspects of their rider's contracts plus they'll want his image rights which must be worth a flippin' fortune… if he signed those over to Sky for the duration he'd probably be paying them to ride.

I'll bet his advisors would be prepared to trade on wages for control of image rights and personal sponsorship deals. You could even imagine a scenario where Sky found it cheaper to buy themselves out of their Pinarello and adidas contracts to get hold of Cav. Sky on Specialized next year anyone?

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
4th October 2011 - 18:33

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Well Brad did tweet that he'd bought his Pinarello, so maybe he's not expecting to be riding one next year Thinking

posted by nellybuck@msn.com [156 posts]
4th October 2011 - 19:07

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I'm no big fan of Sky and the way they operate. I hope Cav finds another team.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
4th October 2011 - 19:55

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Good luck to Cav, he deserves to be sought after so much. I bet HTC wish they had hung around a bit longer. Can't get my head round talk that he is being greedy, no way,he isn't cheating anyone, he has earned the right to be where he is.

antonio

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posted by antonio [930 posts]
4th October 2011 - 20:54

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I think Brailsford's comments that "it would be bitter if [Cavendish] won in the colours of a foreign team" just show that there's more than a little conflict of interest in the same guy being in charge of sky and team GB. it's something that British Cycling need to sort out I reckon.

Can't blame Cav for seeking his market value though, although I hope signing up with Wasserman is the only advice he's going to take from Larry.

posted by pjt201 [97 posts]
4th October 2011 - 21:08

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I still think it would be a mistake for Sky to go for Cav, World Champ or not. I have believed ever since T-Mobile days that a team can no longer create a squad able to support 2 major TdF jerseys (irrespective of Ullrich's weaknesses). Cav may now have developed to be able to follow other wheels for wins but that will never deliver the number of wins that HTC delivered.

Stick to your guns Sky, go for gold (yellow), forget green. Froome and Wiggo showed at the Vuelta that you are so very close to the biggest cycling prize of all.

I agree about Cav deserving to earn whatever he can get even though I'm not a fan. Just really really dislike sport agents. Might be good for individuals but I don't think they do any sport any good.

posted by 1961BikiE [80 posts]
4th October 2011 - 21:16

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Cav has to go where the likelihood of a most successful and happiest future lies. Where will his longer term interests be best looked after?

I don't think it is about greed as much opportunity. He must capitalise on his current value while he is hot.

Not sent from my iPhone

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posted by Nick No Balance [2 posts]
4th October 2011 - 21:24

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My word this story is being milked for all its worth by Cavendish's people.

Be better is this sort of thing happened in the off season.

Of course things will have changed after his world champ win but i bet Braislford knew that and if he didn't plan for it he's naive at best, but months of Cav and Sky mentioned together in editorials is an PR/advertisers wet dream and getting as much press as his green/rainbow jersey combined.

posted by Decster [246 posts]
4th October 2011 - 21:40

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Well all that speculation worked for Sky too, it's got to be good for a cycling team, and their sponsors, to be associated with one of the hottest stars of the moment… Sky have probably had more coverage, in this country at least, from their association with Cavendish than they've had out of the riders that are actually on their team.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
4th October 2011 - 21:48

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I'm just wonder why some middle east multi billionaire hasn't got in on cycling yet??

Its happened in most other sports and with the profile of cycling rising all the time, they could go and form a super team, get ALL the top riders together in on team, a bit like BMC have been doing

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8668 posts]
4th October 2011 - 22:39

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Can Team Sky afford Cav now everyone's going to buy football tv viewing cards from Greece? Wink

posted by a.jumper [681 posts]
5th October 2011 - 0:44

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(deleted)

posted by a.jumper [681 posts]
5th October 2011 - 0:48

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Wonder if it's Cav himself or his high-powered agents that are the stumbling block? Maybe he needs to remind them that they work for him, not the other way around.

In many ways I don't really mind whether he rides for Sky or for Omega-Tongue-Twister or whoever, just hope he makes the decision that's right for him in personal and sporting terms. If he does that then it won't do his market value any harm in the longer term. But it would be a real shame if he let his future at what should be the peak of his career be dictated by short-term financial gain.

posted by JonSP [48 posts]
5th October 2011 - 8:45

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It's almost as if Brailsford is miffed because his team delivered for Cav, but let's not forget he, (Cav), was already favourite for the title, a position he made on the team of HTC, not Sky.

antonio

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posted by antonio [930 posts]
5th October 2011 - 8:47

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Would Cav going anywhere other than Sky been seen as a snub to the UK Cycling scene?

Cav candidly admitted that the points accrued by Sky [to get the max amount of support for him], plus the work they did on the day, notwithstanding David Millar's contribution, put him in the Rainbow Jersey.

It's a testament to his talent that he achieved the win without his usual HTC Train but many argue that his position leading up to the line was down to the massive contribution Wiggins, Millar, Cummings et al made.

That said, I'm not being sentimental about Cav's team for 2012 - it would be great to see him flying the Rainbow jersey, backed by a (mainly) British Squad of riders. But it would also be great to see him lift the Olympic gold and retain the Green Jersey at the Tour, and have other magnificent talent trying to beat him, no matter who pays their wages or where they're from.

The competition's good for cycling, the transfer talk is unimportant in the wider scheme of things.

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posted by andylul [411 posts]
5th October 2011 - 9:21

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"many argue that his position leading up to the line was down to the massive contribution Wiggins, Millar, Cummings et al made."

I don't think there's any doubt whatsoever that being in a position to win was down to the efforts made by the GB team - it was the first thing mentioned by Cavendish himself after he crossed the line, and in subsequent interviews.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7891 posts]
5th October 2011 - 10:23

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To be honest i think it's the usual rubbish you get out of newspaper reporters to justify their existence.

If he signs for Sky good, if not then they make do with what they have already got but after signing Danny Pate i think Cav and Eisel will be next

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2662 posts]
5th October 2011 - 19:43

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Gkam84 wrote:
I'm just wonder why some middle east multi billionaire hasn't got in on cycling yet??

Its happened in most other sports and with the profile of cycling rising all the time, they could go and form a super team, get ALL the top riders together in on team, a bit like BMC have been doing

I really hope that doesn't happen - cycling is a wonderfully accessible sport for spectators at the moment and that would be the first casualty.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
5th October 2011 - 21:04

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I'm proud to announce Cav is now going to be riding for the LIverpool Mercury CC next season. He get's a brand new Dolan, use of the club house and free tea and cake (weekdays only -we're not made of money..) at the club run cafe in Rufford Lancs. A lead out team is yet to be agreed but with Brad living just 10 miles up the road and not keen on the Sky green kit and a couple of old pro riders in the club ready to give it a go we expect to make an announcement of the full team shortly....

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

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posted by MercuryOne [1026 posts]
7th October 2011 - 10:27

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Just really really dislike sport agents. Might be good for individuals but I don't think they do any sport any good.

Agreed. They're like Estate Agents. Driving up the costs on everything to the point the market collapses. Or at least that my hope concerning the Premiershit.

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

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posted by MercuryOne [1026 posts]
7th October 2011 - 10:30

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Gkam84 wrote:
I'm just wonder why some middle east multi billionaire hasn't got in on cycling yet??

Its happened in most other sports and with the profile of cycling rising all the time, they could go and form a super team, get ALL the top riders together in on team, a bit like BMC have been doing

Because nobody in the Middle East gives a shit about cycling.

They are involved in football and motor-racing etc because they are big television sports that are frequently watched by people who don't actually do the sport, or any sport.

Outside of continental Europe cycling tends to be mainly for cyclists, and in the middle east that mostly means just the western expats.

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posted by abudhabiChris [498 posts]
7th October 2011 - 12:17

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MercuryOne wrote:
I'm proud to announce Cav is now going to be riding for the LIverpool Mercury CC next season. He get's a brand new Dolan, use of the club house and free tea and cake (weekdays only -we're not made of money..) at the club run cafe in Rufford Lancs. A lead out team is yet to be agreed but with Brad living just 10 miles up the road and not keen on the Sky green kit and a couple of old pro riders in the club ready to give it a go we expect to make an announcement of the full team shortly....

HAha. Nice.

posted by 6654henry [56 posts]
7th October 2011 - 13:20

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