Mark Cavendish may have to buy himself out of Sky contract, according to team source
BMC, Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step head list of suitors - but Cav may have to fork out £1 million to leave
World champion Mark Cavendish may have to buy himself out of his contract with Team Sky in order to line up a move elsewhere, reports BBC Sport, citing a source within the British ProTeam.
The 27-year-old looks certain to leave the team following a 2012 season in which he played a largely supporting role at the Tour de France as Sky focused on Bradley Wiggins' ambitions to become the first British rider to win the maillot jaune.
That meant that Cavendish, who in 2011 became the first Briton to win the green jersey when he won the Tour's points classification, was unable to defend that title, won this year by Liquigas-Cannondale's Peter Sagan. Given Team Sky's stated intention to concentrate on the general classification in grand tours it has become increasingly apparent in recent weeks that Cavendish is likely to leave Sky at the end of the season.
BMC Racing, Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step are believed to head the list of teams queueing for Cavendish's signatiure and moreover have the financial means to match his salary which is believed to be in the region of £2 million a year.
However, according to the BBC, his existing team will want compensation of up to £1 million, with a source within Team Sky pointing out: "When a rider is under contract, it is common practice - and the industry norm - to pay a release fee."
The unnamed source added that while that sum would usually be paid by the team the rider is joining, it can also be paid by the rider in question.
Sky itself paid compensation to Slipstream Sports, owner of Garmin-Transitions, when Wiggins joined from the US-based team at the end of the 2009 season.
The BBC adds that Cavendish and Sky have not spoken to each other regarding his situation during the past six weeks.
Cavendish, alongisde Wiggins, will take part in next week's Tour of Britain which starts in Ipswich. A year ago, he won two stages of the race with his former HTC-Higroad team and went on to win the World Championship in Copenhagen a week later to start what have been a memorable 12 months for British cycling.
He subsequently anounced his much anticipated move to Sky, with his major goal this season being the Olympic road race at the end of July, where his Great Britain team mates fought hard to control the race and try and ensure a sprint finish but were unable to prevent a break from getting away on the final lap of the Box Hill circuit.
Earlier in the season, Cavendish had come within a whisker of winning the points classification at the Giro d'Italia which would have made him one of a very select group of riders to have won the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.
Despite the supporting role he played at the Tour de France, he also picked up three stage wins including a fourth consecutive victory on the Champs-Elysees, however with Wiggins winning that race and Chris Froome finishing second, Team Sky's focus is now firmly on winning overall titles at Grand Tours rather than looking to win sprint stages.
For Cavendish, spending a year with Sky in which there was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to race for gold at a home Olympics was probably the right move, with the team's links with British Cycling meaning he was able to focus more on that goal than would perhaps have been the case elsewhere.
As his reign as world champion heads towards its conclusion, however - the course later this month in the Netherlands has a tough finale that does not suit him - most would agree that he will be better off elsewhere.
One thing's for certain, though. Unlike most people looking to terminate a Sky contract early, Cavendish won't be getting a call back from the customer service department offering him a new deal at a reduced monthly cost.