Bradley Wiggins saying he can appreciate why world champion Mark Cavendish may wish to leave the British outfit at the end of the season now that its focus has changed to riding for the overall win at cycling’s Grand Tours. Team principal Dave Brailsford, meanwhile, has said that he is targeting repeated success in the Tour de France with the aim of turning Team Sky into one of the biggest sports teams in the world.
Wiggins, who added Olympic time trial gold at London 2012 to his Tour de France title, was quoted in the Guardian as saying: "On a personal level I have enjoyed riding with him this year and I enjoy his company but I understand why he would probably have to leave.
“I love seeing him win as much as anyone else and to see Mark back out on the Tour winning six, seven or eight different stages and challenging for the green, he probably has to go.
"At Sky we have set a precedent now. If we are going to dominate cycling and win three grand tours in a year, we have to start building to that GC thing.
“Unfortunately for Mark, as we saw in the Tour, the two don't really go well together. For his own career I understand why he has to do it but from a selfish point of view I would like him to stay."
Cavendish, who still has more than two years of his contract to run, played a largely supporting role to Wiggins during the Tour.
Although he won three stages, two of those, including a fourth consecutive victory on the Champs-Elysees, came after the overall win had been more or less secured, meaning that the team was able to change its focus to supporting the sprinter rather than defending Wiggins’ lead.
The trade-off for Cavendish playing that unaccustomed supporting part at the Tour was the support he would be given in the Olympic road in London race a week later.
While Wiggins, Chris Froome and the rest of the British team dug deep to try and control the race to ensure it would come down to a sprint finish, a big group containing a number of dangerous riders got away on the final circuit of Box Hill and it wouldn’t be brought back.
Next year, of course, the Olympics won’t be a factor and team principal Dave Brailford, who is also performance director of British Cycling, said last month that he wouldn’t stand in Cavendish’s way if he decided to leave.
Quoted in Mail Online, Brailsford confirmed that Team Sky’s Grand Tour ambitions now revolved firmly around targeting the GC.
“I want to build one of the best sports teams in the world, if not the best,” he said, “and I’m talking all sports. What are the criteria in becoming a Barcelona or a Real Madrid, a New Zealand All Blacks, a Ferrari, an LA Lakers and so on? How do the very best go about their business? What do they all have in common?
“First and foremost, it means results. Yes, we’ve won the Tour and did it ahead of schedule, but we need to win it again and again. We believe we have the tools and the riders. But it’s also to do with our attitudinal approach to everything connected to us.
“We want to become the model sports team, a point of reference for not just cycling but world sport to follow in terms of innovation, technology, team building and pushing the boundaries.”
This time last year, when Team Sky was conducting negotiations to bring Cavendish on board, it would have been easy to dismiss such words as wishful thinking, but the podium places secured by Froome and Wiggins in last year’s Vuelta began the shift in the team’s focus that was completed with it securing the top two spots on GC in the Tour.
According to Mail Online, BMC heads the list of Cavendish’s potential suitors, although recruiting him would see it have to change its Tour de France focus from challenging for the maillot jaune, which Cadel Evans won with it last year, to the points competition.
Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step are seen as the next most likely destinations, while Liquigas-Cannondale, Lampre-ISD and Rabobank are also said to have sounded Cavendish out.
As for Wiggins, he confirmed yesterday that he will be taking part in the Tour of Britain, and while he will be at the UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands next month, he won’t be riding the time trial there.
"For me [the world championship is] not big at all. I am the Olympic champion, that is the one everyone wants to win. I won't be doing the time trial. I have a lot of commitments now in the next six weeks and I am probably not going to be able to give the time to the training that is required to win the gold there.
"I will be there in a supporting role to help the guys in the road race and it is the same with the Tour of Britain. A lot of guys have ridden for me all year and rather than just stop and say I have won what I wanted to win and go on holiday for six months and get fat, I thought it would be nice to go back there and help the team in those races."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.