Hayman and Sutton extend contracts with Team Sky - could that mean Cavendish headed elsewhere?
Re-signing Aussie Sutton means Team Sky already has four sprinters with grand tour experience for 2012
Team Sky has announced that two of its Australian riders, Mat Hayman and CJ Sutton, have extended their contracts with the British ProTeam. The announcement at this late stage that the sprinter Sutton, winner of a stage of the Vuelta in August, is remaining with Sky will add to speculation that the team has missed out on signing Mark Cavendish, linked in recent days with a move to Belgium’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Both the 27-year-old Sutton and the 33-year-old Hayman have added to their palmarès in recent days, with Hayman winning Paris-Bourges and Sutton bagging a stage win on his way to third place overall at the Circuit Franco-Belge. Earlier this season, Sutton also won Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
While Sutton wouldn’t perhaps be viewed as a direct alternative to Cavendish for the sprinter berth in the Tour de France, along with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ben Swift and the young Italian Davide Appollonio, Team Sky has four fast finishers able to compete in the grand tours, so confirmation that he has been retained could be a signal that Team Sky’s chase for Cavendish has failed.
Moreover, some observers have questioned whether signing Cavendish, with the focus on sprint stages in the Tour de France that would entail, is compatible with the team’s GC ambitions particularly after Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins made the podium in the Vuelta last month.
Team Sky’s announcement yesterday that it had signed another HTC-Highroad rider, Kanstantsin Siustou, a man more than capable of acting as a minder to the likes of Wiggins in the mountains during the Tour de France, may also signify that the team’s focus is now back on the GC.
Talking about his contract extension, Sutton said: “To sign a new contract with Team Sky is amazing. I am so happy here and have learned so much from the riders and coaches over the last two years. Their input has allowed me to improve every aspect of my riding and I'm looking forward to progressing further in the future.
The rider, whose uncle Shane is Team Sky’s head coach, added: “It's like a big happy family here and I've made some really close friends. On the road we've also clicked a lot more this season that's been reflected with the number of race wins we've achieved. We're only going to get better over the next few seasons as well and that's really exciting to be part of.”
Meanwhile, Hayman commented: “When I came to Team Sky I knew that I was joining something new and innovative, it has been a privilege to be able to be a part of this new team that has aimed so high and is always trying to set new standards.
“I am very much looking forward to the next two years and building on the start we have made. The team is full of talented riders and part of my role is to help those guys get the most out of themselves, as well as myself.
The Australian, pictured above finishing tenth in this year’s Paris-Roubaix, continued: “The cobbled classics are close to my heart, I feel like I am close to making a breakthrough in one of these races, the team has been supportive of my ambitions in this area and I would love to repay that support with a win. I will also endeavour to make the Tour de France team because it is every rider’s ambition to be part of the biggest race in the world.”
Team Principal Dave Brailsford added: “Mathew’s win this week at Paris-Bourges underlined his huge talent as a rider and he has continued to show all season why he is one of the most respected riders in the peloton. His strength, stamina and leadership are second to none and we are delighted that he has seen Team Sky as the best environment to continue his career.
“CJ is one of the most exciting sprint prospects in professional cycling. His stage win during this summer’s Vuelta was typical of his talent. He is a rider that is reaching the pinnacle of his career and we expect him to go from strength-to-strength over the next two seasons at Team Sky.”