Mark Cavendish confirms intention to leave Sky and hopes for an amicable split

World champion says helping Wiggins win Tour a career highlight, but own ambitions mean it's time to move on

by Simon_MacMichael   September 9, 2012  

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

World champion Mark Cavendish has confirmed that he will be leaving Team Sky at the end of the season. The 27-year-old says he has been “very happy” at British ProTeam, and hopes that he can depart on friendly terms. Whether that proves to be the case may depend on whether or not the team requires Cavendish to pay a release fee from his contract, which has two years left to run.

Cavendish was speaking yesterday on the eve of the start of the 2012 Tour of Britain in Ipswich today. Last year, he won the opening and closing stages of that race. The latter win, in London, would prove to be his final one at HTC-Highroad, and his last win before becoming world champion a week later in Copenhagen.

“I want the best for British cycling, it has grown so much and we had this idea that we could have this British superteam that could win stages and dominate," reflected Cavendish, quoted on Telegraph.co.uk.

"Dave [Brailsford, team principal at Sky and performance director of British Cycling] sold me the idea last year but for some reason it hasn't worked out like that. It’s difficult to do.

"Winning the yellow jersey is the biggest thing in cycling, for me not to want a team and a company I love not to go and do the biggest thing would be wrong.

"But obviously it restricts me and what I can do as a professional cyclist myself. I have got this ambition of winning as many stages in the Tour de France as I can and I want to be somewhere I can do that. We had ambitions that can't work out.

"If they want to go and do it [win the overall in the Tour de France] again, why not? The yellow jersey is the biggest prize in sport, but Dave's stated ambitions are not really involving sprinters or a green jersey or stage wins so that puts me in a position where I am lost.

"Rather than kicking and screaming I hope we can come to an amicable solution and we can have the best for both parties.

"It's like a long distance relationship with a girl. Everything is great but you live apart and it can't work out. But you want to be friends and you would rather the best thing happens so that everything can remain good and that you can stay close.

"I've been very happy at Sky. I am still happy at Sky. It's the guys I grew up racing with, a management I grew up racing with. I don't want to compromise Sky and hopefully Sky won't compromise me.

"I've not said anything before, I've just heard things and read things. The Tour de France is hardest sprint event in the world and it became apparent this year that you can't go in with a two-pronged attack.

"I was incredibly proud to be part of that team that won a yellow – that was big thing in my career, it will go down as possibly the biggest thing of my career.

"I've got a two-year contract with Sky and it will be interesting to see what Dave says. Hopefully he won't keep me suppressed down. I don't want to keep Sky suppressed down either. I've heard talk of a release fee but I've known Dave since I was 14 and I don't think he will do that. Hopefully we can find an amicable solution," he concluded.

Speculation that Cavendish might seek a new employer for the 2013 season onwards began to build during the Tour de France, where he played the unaccustomed role of domestique for much of the race to support Bradley Wiggins’ ambitions of winning the maillot jaune.

Without the support he had enjoyed in previous years at HTC-Highroad, there was never a realistic prospect of Cavendish defending the points classification he had won 12 months earlier. He did secure three stage wins, but two of those came in the closing days of the race, after the mountains, by which time Wiggins’ overall victory was all but assured.

While Cavendish himself had said that there was no reason he couldn’t win both the green jersey and Olympic gold on the road in London a week after the Tour finished, Brailsford had made it clear earlier in the year that Wiggins would be the priority at the Tour, with Cavendish enjoying full support in the Olympic road race, won by Alexandre Vinokourov after a big breakaway group got away on the final circuit of Box Hill. After the Tour, Brailsford had said he wouldn’t stand in Cavendish’s way if he decided to ride elsewhere in 2013.

With the demise of his former HTC-Highroad team at the end of 2011 meaning staying put was not an option for Cavendish, the overlap between the respective set-ups of  British Cycling and Team Sky meant that the latter was always the logical choice for him during a year that presented a once-in-a-lifetime chance to race in a home Olympics.

The reality of the situation now is that with Team Sky having sharpened its focus over the past 12 months on chasing GC in one-week races and Grand Tours, culminating in that historic win by Wiggins in Paris in July, there is no possibility of it giving Cavendish the support he needs and deserves, particularly in the Tour.

BMC Racing, Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step are considered the teams at the head of the queue for his signature, and each would be able to better accommodate him within their set-up than has proved to be the case with Sky.

10 user comments

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I'm sure the relationship between Dave and Cav is long and deep enough for him to understand Cavs siutation. Cav certainly has presented a respectful case here. I just hope the money men on both sides don't cock things up. I for one want to see Cav in another Green jersey and ripping it up on the 'Champes' and that won't happen if he's forced to stay at Sky. Fingers crossed it will all work out ok.

posted by mattbibbings [103 posts]
9th September 2012 - 11:59

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X 2 @mattbibbings

You can love Cav or hate him, but there is no doubting that he is the most exciting and colorful fast man we've had since the days of Cippo. Would love to see him in an O-P kit with Tomke sucking it up and being his lead out man.

"because a goal without a plan is just a wish"

posted by bikeyourbest [23 posts]
9th September 2012 - 13:48

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If the release fee was in the contract that both parties signed, why wouldn't or shouldn't everyone concerned expect it to be paid?

posted by chorltonjon [34 posts]
9th September 2012 - 14:10

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chorltonjon wrote:
If the release fee was in the contract that both parties signed, why wouldn't or shouldn't everyone concerned expect it to be paid?

there is also the possibility that the contract would have some guarantees for Cav to have been given priorities for stage wins - and if DB is solely looking for Grand Tour GC wins he might have broken the contract - obvs purely conjecture but the contract has to work and protect both sides.

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posted by themartincox [376 posts]
9th September 2012 - 14:16

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Moving away from the contract talk surely both katusha and BMC will also have GC ambitions at the grand tours.

Quickstep would seem to be the logical choice if he wants to go back to an HTC style sprint team.

posted by SpooksTheHorse [28 posts]
9th September 2012 - 15:21

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If only there was a way of searching my posts id find the one from before cav joined sky where I questioned why they wanted him as it couldn't work.

I was right, a career as cycling pundit beckons

posted by fred22 [209 posts]
9th September 2012 - 16:43

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Omega Pharma.........................Incoming ! Cool

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posted by Brummmie [56 posts]
9th September 2012 - 18:59

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Sky loosing the worlds top sprinter! Seems like DB is letting the team down, while only considering GC contenders. Not a place for all types of race cyclists Sky!

Hope we see Cav, win many more stages in Le Tour De France and other tour races.

posted by Mostyn [407 posts]
10th September 2012 - 6:53

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It's probably not going to come down to how long Cav and Brailsford have known each other, the contract is really the only thing that matters. As Martin - LeJogLe says above, there should have been guarantees that Sky would have devoted manpower to Cav to secure stage wins, if that's not happened then it's up to the partie's representatives to sort it out through the contract. The main sponsor (Sky) may not want to see Cav go at all and could try anything possible to keep him with their logo on him. It's not a simple situation.

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posted by SamShaw [274 posts]
10th September 2012 - 7:23

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Cavendish was sold " Mission Impossible" by Brailsford and he bought it. I suppose if anyone could pull off a GC and Green jersey assault in the same year it would be Dave, but there's a reason it's never been done before!

Let him go and use his reported £2 mill a year wages to set up a Team SKY UK development squad to give the next generation of Cavs and Wiggo's a real sling shot into the Pro ranks.

posted by May Sports Images [7 posts]
10th September 2012 - 16:04

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