Mark Cavendish signs for Team Sky... and so does Bernie Eisel
Will he/won't he saga finally over… turns out he will after all
The worst kept secret in sport is a secret no longer… Mark Cavendish has signed for Team Sky. The Manx Missile announced the news himself via his twitter account with a typically straight to the point… "It's… Team Sky." Not long after news of that was made official, Team Sky confirmed that Bernie Eisel was also joining.
Cavendish's move from the soon to be defunct HTC Highroad had seemed to be a done deal, but the announcement expected after the his success at the World Championships failed to materialise at the same time as rumours of disputes over image rights and the make of bike Cavendish wanted to ride surfaced. Other teams were also linked to the Manx Missile including Quickstep and most recently Garmin Cervelo. Whatever was going on in the background the problems appear to have been resolved.
Cav's tweet was obviously part of a scripted move by Sky because it was followed up moments later by a press relese from his new team with "delighted" reaction from his new team mates, with Bradley Wiggins, saying:
"I think I speak for everyone in the squad when I say that we’re all delighted to have Cav joining us at Team Sky. He is the best sprinter in the world and has an energy and passion for cycling that is infectious.
"Team Sky has enjoyed a fantastic second season and Mark’s signing is another statement of our intent for next year and beyond."
Geraint Thomas, who along with Wiggins was part of the Great Britain squad which helped Cavendish to World Road Race glory last month, said: "Cav joining Team Sky is fantastic news. In many ways it’s like he’s coming home - the team has a number of riders and support staff that he grew up with and it won’t take him any time to settle in.
"I think everyone saw that when we helped him to victory for Great Britain at the Worlds, and we are all looking forward to helping him deliver more wins for Team Sky."
The 'Project Rainbow' that got Cavendish into the world champion's jersey that he wore for the first time at Paris-Tours at the weekend was three years in the planning, and you can bet that plans have been in place for a long time to secure him the gold medal in the Olympic road race in London next summer.
Crucially, the next nine months or so of build up towards that will unfold with Cavendish riding for Team Sky, which could well end up providing the other four riders who support Cavendish in his bid to win what will be the first gold medal of London 2012, and which he has already stated is his big aim for the year, having won the test event on the same course over the summer.
“Mark is the greatest sprinter of his generation and is well on his way to becoming the greatest of all time," said Team Sky Principal, Dave Brailsford. "He is a rider of exceptional talent who has proved his pedigree at the very highest level of our sport. “
“Mark is a born winner and what excites me most is the attitude he brings to all the teams he rides for. We want to inspire more fans to get into cycling and I can think of no one better to help us do that. We are delighted that the new world champion will be riding for Team Sky next season.”
Team Sky already has a wealth of sprinting talent - CJ Sutton won his first grand tour stage in this year's Vuelta, while the young Italian Davide Apollonio very nearly took a Giro stage off Cavendish this year, and the Manxman's arrival will clearly intensify the competition for sprinting places outside the races he takes part in.
But the two men who performed the sprint duties this year in the Tour de France - ex-HTC Columbia team mate Edvald Boasson, and Yorkshireman Ben Swift - both said they were delighted to welcome Cavendish into the fold.
"I know from my time riding with Mark at Columbia-HTC what a special talent he is and it’s great that we are back on the same team. Mark is a good guy, delivers when it matters and is another weapon in our squad for next year," said Boasson Hagen, winner of two Tour de France stages this year.
“The young sprinters here are always looking to learn and having someone like Cav on the team is going to help us a lot," added Swift. "We know each other very well already, but seeing how he goes about things on a daily basis will be really good for me personally and he’s always happy to give tips and advice. It’s great to have him on the team.”
The only loose end that needed to be tied up was fate of Cav's trusty HTC wingman Bernie Eisel… who else would wait for him on the hills? Sure enough, it was only a matter of minutes before Team Sky confirmed that the Austrian, too, would be joining. If only everything in life were as easy to predict...
“I’m really happy," said the 30-year-old Eisel. "I’ve had a great time with HTC-Highroad but at soon as I heard the team was folding I knew I would have to explore other possibilities and Team Sky were right at the top of my list. The biggest thing that attracted me to them was the structure they have in place and everything that happens behind the scenes. Everything is catered for the riders and I think that’s the perfect way to run a professional cycling team. The fact that I wanted to stay with Cav was also a major factor and we’re both happy that we will now have more years ahead of us.”
“My main job will be keeping him protected leading into the sprints, but the spring Classics are also very important to me and I’ll be looking to ride well in them," he added. "If I can secure a ride in the Tour de France that will be great as well. I have ridden the last eight Tours and finished them all, and next year is my 12th season as a professional so I’d like to think I have the experience to be able to contribute to the team.”
“Bernhard is one of the most hard-working and respected riders in the peloton and is exactly the type of guy we have been looking to bring to the team," added Brailsford. "He’s a natural leader with a cool, calm head - in the same mould of Juan Antonio Flecha and Mathew Hayman - and will also be able to take charge of things on the road.
“The younger guys will be able to learn a lot from him and we expect him to adopt a senior role within the squad. He’s the consummate team player but is also capable of winning races himself and his versatility will be a massive boost to the team.”