And it's goodbye from him? Brailsford says Mark Cavendish can leave Team Sky if he wants to (but he'd rather he didn't)

Team boss confirms that focus will continue to be on GC for Grand Tours which won't suit Cavendish

by Tony Farrelly   July 23, 2012  

Giro 2012 S2 Mark Cavendish wins (picture Gian Mattia D'Alberto:LaPresse:RCS Sport)

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford has given the clearest hint yet that Mark Cavendish's time at Sky may only be a one season wonder telling the BBC that the Manx Missile, who today won stage 20 of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees, can leave the team if he wants to.

In a post-race interview, after Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour Brailsford said: "This team will keep its GC ambitions and I am sure that we will sit down and discuss that with Mark and see how he feels about that.

"He is a prolific British winner and on the one hand we would love to have a prolific British winner on the team.

"If he felt, or if it was felt, that he would like a dedicated team around him, then he is quite within his rights to want to do that,"

While speaking to ITV4 straight after the stage finish today, Tour runner up, Chris Froome also spoke about Sky reaffirming their commitment to being a GC team at future editions of the Tour. Froome came across as a man who had been given the reassurances he wanted and seemed to be unambiguously buying in to Sky's future plans and his part in them. .

By contrast the mood music around Mark Cavendish has changed in recent days. 

From the moment Cavendish signed his three year contract with Sky last October, many observers have been wondering how long the arrangement would last. The smart money has always been that it was a marriage of convenience that would end after the Olympics.

Dave Brailsford is also British Cycling's Olympic Performance Director so it is certainly convenient for him to have all but one of the Olympic road race team racing and training together all season, with the crucial man to be delivered to the line as part of the set up. It also has to be said that one of the keys to Sky's success has been the ability to learn from their mistakes, rectify them and move on without rancour. It may be that the team management realises that it cannot support both Cavendish and a GC contender so are willing to make a clean break and move on with no hard feelings.

Up until recently Cavendish's response when asked about the possibility of him leaving Sky after one season has been a flat bat "I have a three year contract with Sky" delivered in a brook no argument manner. That line has noticeably softened in recent days, with Cavendish while professing love for all things Sky and his team mates also admitting that the set up was "difficult".

For much of the Tour there has been talk of how Team Sky will be able to continue to accommodate the ambitions of Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Mark Cavendish in one team. Although Bradley Wiggins said he would support a future Froome bid to win the Tour, the received wisdom had been that Froome would be the odd man out, with Astana rumoured to want to buy his contract out and install him as undisputed team leader.

Received wisdom though failed to address the central problem of how Sky would simultaneously support bids for both the yellow and green jerseys something no team has managed to do since Team Telekom in 1997 with Jan Ullrich and Eric Zabel winning yellow and green respectively.

While little had been said in the British media about the possibility of Cavendish moving on, the French have not been so reticent. Yesterday's edition of L'Equipe carried a speculative piece suggesting that his time in Sky colours was coming to an end. The paper even supplied a suggestion for his next destination, Omega Pharma Quickstep, who were in the running for his signature last autumn too.

Orica GreenEdge might be another possibility. The Australian team's star sprinter Matt Goss previously rode as part of Cavendish's lead out train at HTC, but hasn't managed to translate consistently high finishing positions in to consistent wins. Katusha could be another possible destination - Cavendish's mentor Eric Zabel is now there, Oscar Freire is in his final season and Denis Galimzyanov their young star sprinter tested positive for EPO use in April so there's a job of re-building to be done and the Russians seem to have the money to do it.

Today's edition of L'Equipe (Monday) carries a quote from Sky sport director Sean Yates confirming that Chris Froome had indeed disobeyed team orders by attacking his team leader on stage 11 to La Toussuire. Yates described the move as clumsy, although that's our translation from the French and it is unclear if Yates made his original comment in English or French.

The only slightly puzzling aspect of this affair is why it should have come out now rather than after the Olympics. The logical reason for giving Cavendish a three year contract - apart from hoping that he'd actually see it out, which Dave Brailsford says he still hopes he will -  was to quash any distracting speculation which would inevitably have arisen during the build up to the Olympics.

The likely explanation is that Cav's discomfiture at being the forgotten man of Team Sky for much of the race was too obvious for other teams, and the media, to ignore. Either way such talk is unlikely to unsettle Cavendish who is likely to become even more of a sought after commodity if, as current form suggests, he takes road race gold to kick start the Olympics next weekend.

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Thinking

drewj's picture

posted by drewj [3 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 9:19

2 Likes

Zabel will be a big pull for Cav, dodgy russians or no, and Cav could give Katusha the new clean image they need.

posted by mrsminx411 [86 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:01

3 Likes

OPQ is the only logical choice after Sky, but if you read the article carefully it never says he is leaving, all it says is that if he wanted to he could, just like any other rider.

The story in L'Equipe is from a highly respected paper which is a surprise if they are printing pure speculation or is it a way to try and cast some doubt and in fighting over the preperation for the Olympics by a rival country ?

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2841 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:12

2 Likes

Brailsford almost said "...and don't let the door hit you on the way out, Mark..."

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

Strathlubnaig's picture

posted by Strathlubnaig [115 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:25

4 Likes

stumps wrote:
OPQ is the only logical choice after Sky, but if you read the article carefully it never says he is leaving, all it says is that if he wanted to he could, just like any other rider.

Well, not really - if they want to leave, their existing team has to agree that their contract can be bought out. It is very unlikely a team would outright refuse (since if a rider wants to go, a team probably doesn't want them anymore) but there's often a big price to pay if the team doesn't want you to leave. Brailsford is saying, publicly, that he would agree to Cav's contract being bought out (and that likely means a clean negotiation and not a ridiculous price. It's a big deal, that.

posted by step-hent [702 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:45

2 Likes

This is just so British.

Here we have a British-based team with British subjects as world's top all-rounder, top climber and top sprinter, and all you can do is wish it'd fall apart?

Try enjoying being part of cycling's top nation for a few days.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:53

2 Likes

No one reckon Sky could bankroll two teams, or BC to have two teams under different sponsorship?

posted by austen [33 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:55

3 Likes

I don't think Cav would need much more attention from his team to be back to his usual number of Tour stage wins (five rather than three). The team were understandably paranoid about defending the yellow jersey this year. With a little more attention keeping Cav towards the front of the peloton he might have got a couple more stages. Having Geraint Thomas back next year should help.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1380 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 10:58

4 Likes

JohnS wrote:
This is just so British.

Here we have a British-based team with British subjects as world's top all-rounder, top climber and top sprinter, and all you can do is wish it'd fall apart?

Try enjoying being part of cycling's top nation for a few days.

Who's wishing it would fall apart? I couldn't have been happier watching Wiggo in yellow lead out Cav in stripes to win on the Champs. It was amazing. And I'd love to see it happen again.

But I'd rather Cav went elsewhere and won more than stayed at Sky and won less. Also think that it would be easier for Sky to defend their title next year if they could go purely for GC. I'm not anti-Sky, or anti-Cav - I want both to do well, but I wonder if they'd do it better seperately. Apparently Brailsford wonders the same thing.

posted by step-hent [702 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 11:00

3 Likes

cat1commuter wrote:
Having Geraint Thomas back next year should help.

That's a good point - Sky were missing a top quality lead out man really, and GT fits the bill for that.

Whatever happens, hopefully they can all put it on hold until after next Saturday!

posted by step-hent [702 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 11:12

3 Likes

austen wrote:
No one reckon Sky could bankroll two teams, or BC to have two teams under different sponsorship?

There's a point - Sir Branston of Pickle has expressed an interest in British Cycling. He could bankroll a SECOND GB team, cherry-picking rising stars and SuperDomestiques.

Buy out of Endura, perhaps?

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [414 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 11:42

3 Likes

I knew that should have done the Spesh switch. Brad seems less bothered about what bike he rides, etc.

That way everyone would have been happy Wink well, ok, I wouild have been happy Nerd

posted by Super Domestique [1653 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 11:59

4 Likes

Mind games prior to the olympics?

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [604 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 12:07

3 Likes

I don't think he'll stay at Sky, Cav enjoys winning too much and Sky are obviously more interested in GC than stage wins.

I think Specialized want Cav back on their bikes so OPQ is the most likely place for him, he'll have a team around him and there'd probably be the money from Specialized to make the deal work.

posted by Marky Mark [12 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 12:10

4 Likes

Would it not be possible for Murdoch to join forces with the Belgians?

Omega-Pharma-Phonetap has quite a ring to it....

posted by farrell [1579 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 12:17

3 Likes

farrell wrote:
Would it not be possible for Murdoch to join forces with the Belgians?

Omega-Pharma-Phonetap has quite a ring to it....

That truly made me lol.

posted by Super Domestique [1653 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 12:24

2 Likes

Step-hent: "That's a good point - Sky were missing a top quality lead out man really, and GT fits the bill for that."

Well they had Eddie but I suspect once Siutsou was out he had to do way more work in the mountains than had originally been envisaged and wasn't able to do as much for Cav as foreseen in the pre-Tour plan.

Cav was only really given full support on the final two road stages once GC had been more or less secured following the Pyrenees.

And if they had G working for Cav next year, we've also seen in shorter stage races that he works for Brad in the mountains too. But you can't switch between those two roles every day for three weeks, some days you have to take it easy.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8491 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 12:50

3 Likes

FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:
Mind games prior to the olympics?

Mind games? Team Sky? Shurely shome mishtake... Big Grin

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [414 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 13:19

3 Likes

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Step-hent: "That's a good point - Sky were missing a top quality lead out man really, and GT fits the bill for that."

Well they had Eddie but I suspect once Siutsou was out he had to do way more work in the mountains than had originally been envisaged and wasn't able to do as much for Cav as foreseen in the pre-Tour plan.

Cav was only really given full support on the final two road stages once GC had been more or less secured following the Pyrenees.

And if they had G working for Cav next year, we've also seen in shorter stage races that he works for Brad in the mountains too. But you can't switch between those two roles every day for three weeks, some days you have to take it easy.

Yep, unfortunately EBH and Cav don't seem to have quite nailed it yet - even yesterday, it looked like EBH dropped cav off a little early.

The point about needing to rest, though, is exactly what makes me think Cav may end up going elsewhere. He can't be the sole focus at Sky, and they won't want to divert energy to his train when they feel it could be better used for their yellow ambitions. If it's closer next year for yellow, they'll be even more focused on it. So it seems to make sense for Cav to go somewhere where he's the focus, without feeling like he has to compete with his teammates and friends for resources.

posted by step-hent [702 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 13:40

1 Like

In the end do you think Cav was upset by only winning 3 stages including the blue ribbon stage in Paris - No, he wasnt.

He knew all along that this race was about Wiggo and he has his heart set on Olympics Gold.

If he wanted to he could have gone for the green jersey and just jumped from train to train if necessary, which we all know he is damn good at.

In the end its all paper talk at the mo and Brailsford was only replying to a question put to him by a journo in the first place.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2841 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 19:44

1 Like

I wonder how much Cav joined Team Sky so he could be part of the British Maillot Jaune team, rather than for his own ambitions?

posted by mattheww385 [45 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 20:19

1 Like

austen wrote:
No one reckon Sky could bankroll two teams, or BC to have two teams under different sponsorship?

my thoughts exactly have him as the head of the sprint team ,with a load of young talent

posted by russyparkin [578 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 20:46

4 Likes

step-hent wrote:

That's a good point - Sky were missing a top quality lead out man really, and GT fits the bill for that.

EBH is not a top quality lead out? O.o I would even go on a screamer and say that EBH would wipe the floor with Thomas any day.

What they need is someone to lead EBH and Cav out.

seabass89's picture

posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 21:00

3 Likes

Virgin Pro Cycling. Imagine that?! C'mon Richard, its your destiny.

posted by MikeL [18 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 21:02

3 Likes

seabass89 wrote:
step-hent wrote:

That's a good point - Sky were missing a top quality lead out man really, and GT fits the bill for that.

EBH is not a top quality lead out? O.o I would even go on a screamer and say that EBH would wipe the floor with Thomas any day..

No, he's not a top quality lead out man. He's an excellent all rounder, with a decent sprint. Of course you'd expect him to beat Thomas in a sprint (that's no screamer), but that isn't what a lead out man is about. It's about manoeuvring in the bunch in a way that the man following you can stay tight on your wheel, but at a speed that no-one can come round you. That's a different skill than the one that wins you the sprint. Look at Renshaw - hands down the world's best lead out man, but not winning any sprints...

posted by step-hent [702 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 22:16

2 Likes

With Cav chief virgin?! Sure he'd love that!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3466 posts]
24th July 2012 - 5:32

1 Like

Balls - double post!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3466 posts]
24th July 2012 - 5:33

1 Like

MikeL wrote:
Virgin Pro Cycling. Imagine that?! C'mon Richard, its your destiny.

I am also a fan of this idea.

Having said that, I also really like the idea of a second Sky team built around Cav and acting as a good development platform for some of the promising younger riders. Allows Brailsford and potentially Yates to retain some involvement in both teams. And they could share the 'science' freely.

Not sure how much UCI or TDF would be keen to have two dominating Sky teams though. But with worlds top sprinter in one team, and two of the world's top 5 GC contenders in the other, it would be really stupid to exclude either.

posted by Tjuice [124 posts]
24th July 2012 - 17:01

3 Likes

Cav' would be better going to another team IF he wants to win more..

Take the 2012 tour - he could've had loads more, say 5 stages but they went for overall and he played the ego'world champ card lol

Holm is dealing his cards now, i'm sure of it Wink

posted by yenrod [104 posts]
26th July 2012 - 10:32

3 Likes

Well I said it at the time, IMO Cav never should have gone to Sky anyway...

If he had gone to QuickStep in the first place, we might have seen a decent battle for the Green jersey between Cav & Sagan.

Great Britain or Great Cav? Thinking

Paulo's picture

posted by Paulo [110 posts]
26th July 2012 - 16:22

1 Like