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
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.