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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.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

41 comments

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sam_smith [67 posts] 3 years ago
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I really hope that if he is forced to leave Sky to go for another green jersey that he ends up with OPQ rather than Greenedge or Katusha. Old rivalries would be rekindled if he went to Greenedge and I really feel uncomfortable about teams from the old soviet block countries like Astana and Katusha because I don't think they take the problem of doping seriously and sometimes, I suspect, positively encourage it.

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pedalpowerDC [334 posts] 3 years ago
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Cav is too good to play second fiddle to anyone.

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antonio [1119 posts] 3 years ago
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Use them then lose them.

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martyntr [119 posts] 3 years ago
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1/2 of HTC are now at OPQ so I think that would be the obvious route. If cav goes I think Bernie will follow....

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theclaw [73 posts] 3 years ago
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OPQ have Czech billionaire money behind them, so they can pay the wedge as easily as anybody else. They also happen to ride Specialized, and Cav has often been vocal about wanting to continue his relationship with them. Not that that would stop another team breaking their contract with their bike supplier and switching to Specialized if they had to.... but then with Tony Martin and cohort already there, it has to be the most logical move. I couldn't see Cav gambling on a bunch of dodgy Russians. Greenedge would be a move from Man U to Wigan, to mis-quote Wiggins slightly.

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Bhachgen [111 posts] 3 years ago
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"They also happen to ride Specialized, and Cav has often been vocal about wanting to continue his relationship with them."

I'm sure I remember reading that Sky have signed up to switch from Pina to Spesh next season...

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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Bhachgen wrote:

"They also happen to ride Specialized, and Cav has often been vocal about wanting to continue his relationship with them."

I'm sure I remember reading that Sky have signed up to switch from Pina to Spesh next season...

That was the rumour - but they subsequently renewed with Pinarello.

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andylul [410 posts] 3 years ago
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I bet the media team at Sky love it when DB drops a quote like that...

Interesting to see that there's STILL talk about Sky going to Specialneeds even though it's widely reported (and announced on the official Sky web site) that they are staying with Pinarello until the end of next year at least.

I'm increasingly convinced that it's Sky's policy to discuss things speculatively when there is no chance of it happening and openly ONLY when it's inevitable/decided.

Enjoy the media circus and the debate it fuels - it seems to mess with everyone's head except those in the eye of the storm.

It's almost like Brailsford is acting like a minister of misinformation sometimes, and I like that. Imagine the frenzy of (potentially worthless) scheming and budget rejigging by teams who suddenly feel they have a chance of signing Cav for next year, pissing off the roster and hierarchy that already exists at a successful team like, say, OPQS. Psychologically, that must be a massive weapon.

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thereandbackagain [170 posts] 3 years ago
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That was the rumour, but they've decided to stick with Pinarello for at least one more season.

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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Looks like OPQ would be a good bet, doesn't it? Lots of his old buddies, no real GC ambitions, and maybe a chance to learn the classics craft for the future (which Cav has always said he'd be interested in). If they can afford him, it all slots in to place...

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drewj [3 posts] 3 years ago
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 39

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mrsminx411 [86 posts] 3 years ago
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Zabel will be a big pull for Cav, dodgy russians or no, and Cav could give Katusha the new clean image they need.

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mrsminx411 [86 posts] 3 years ago
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Zabel will be a big pull for Cav, dodgy russians or no, and Cav could give Katusha the new clean image they need.

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AWPeleton [3277 posts] 3 years ago
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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 ?

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Strathlubnaig [113 posts] 3 years ago
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Brailsford almost said "...and don't let the door hit you on the way out, Mark..."

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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JohnS [198 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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austen [30 posts] 3 years ago
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No one reckon Sky could bankroll two teams, or BC to have two teams under different sponsorship?

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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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!

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andylul [410 posts] 3 years ago
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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?

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Super Domestique [1596 posts] 3 years ago
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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  3 well, ok, I wouild have been happy  26

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fatbeggaronabike [804 posts] 3 years ago
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Mind games prior to the olympics?

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Marky Mark [12 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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Would it not be possible for Murdoch to join forces with the Belgians?

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

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Super Domestique [1596 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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Simon_MacMichael [2448 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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andylul [410 posts] 3 years ago
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FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:

Mind games prior to the olympics?

Mind games? Team Sky? Shurely shome mishtake...  4

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step-hent [720 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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