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Commenting on rumours linking Mark Cavendish to a possible move to Trek Factory Racing, the American team has confirmed that the multiple Tour stage winner is a clear person of interest.
“What I can say is that he is interesting for us and any team,” spokesman Tim Vanderjeugd told CyclingTips at the Tour de France.
“He is a phenomenal rider. If you look at how many times he has won in the Grand Tours and in the Tour de France especially, any team that is sane in their mind is definitely interested in him, and so are we.
“There have been talk but nothing has been decided or confirmed at this point. But he is an absolutely interesting rider for us.”
Cavendish has clocked up 26 career stage victories in the race and is regarded as one of the best sprinters of all time. His current contract with Etixx – Quick-Step will end at the close of this season and he is working out where he will compete next season.
Vanderjeugd said that talks will likely be held after the Tour. He confirmed that there may be scope to bring on others that Cavendish recommends.
These are thought likely to include leadout man Mark Renshaw. Brian Holm and Rolf Aldag have long worked with him and it is possible that one or both could also move across from Ettix – Quick-Step’s management.
“The circumstances are such that we have quite a big opening. We only have eight or nine riders who are confirmed for next year already,” said Vanderjeugd.
“So we have some room to move around, some flexibility. If he insisted on bringing on bringing people, we could definitely talk about that too.
“But as I said again, it is all premature at this point. Let’s say there is a mutual interest.”
Uncertainty about renewal with Ettix – Quick-Step
Cavendish has previously stated that he would be happy to stay put with Etixx – Quick-Step, although CyclingTips heard suggestions that the relationship may not be as strong as it was before. MTN-Qhubeka is another team mentioned in connection with his name but in contrast to Trek Factory Racing, the African squad declined to comment on the matter.
Asked what were the chances that Cavendish could remain where he is, Etixx – Quick Step directeur sportif Holm said that he was unable to bring clarity.
“Honestly, I can say from the bottom of my heart I don’t have a clue,” he stated. “I don’t think Patrick Lefevere knows it or Mark or his manager know it. I think my boss [Lefevere] is waiting, waiting, waiting. As far as I understand now the market is for the team owners, for the CEOs of the teams. They can wait.
“A few years ago, Sky was coming in and all the prices were up in the air. Now it is more like the opposite. Now it is like the buyer’s market, the teams’ market. The prices were up a few years ago but will probably go down a bit now.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen with Europcar. We miss one good story, one new team coming before the prices will go up again.
“My boss doesn’t talk much about it, but I think he is waiting until after Paris and then in the weeks after we will know what is happening. That’s for Cav, Renshaw and 80 percent of the riders without contract – they have to wait.”
“I am quite sure he will pull it off”
Holm said that the final Tour stage in Paris could be important in deciding what happens. As he pointed out, the more wins a sprinter has to his name, the stronger his hand in negotiations.
So, does he believe the Briton can triumph in Paris?
“I am always quite sure he will win,” he told CyclingTips. “I am quite sure he will pull it off. Last year it was a broken collarbone, two years ago Kittel beat him, but you know we saw the sprint two years ago and he was actually faster. We just sort of screwed up our leadout and Kittel…well, when you miss two bike lengths with him, it is over. That is a fact. That was it.
“I would never underestimate Greipel or Sagan or Kristof or Degenkolb, but it is doable. It is doable.”
This year’s race was atypical, with few opportunities available for the sprinters. Cavendish generally takes a few stages in the Tour to get up to speed, but the lack of big gallops meant that he had very few chances.
“We have been talking about it. It was a bit of a weird Tour here,” said Holm. “We knew it from the start, not too many sprints. A lot of middle stages were, for the sprinters, basically uphill. The big sprint stages like those in the past doesn’t exist.
“The riders have nice, big, beautiful roads the whole day and then the final sprint is on little, winding, curling roads and uphill in the last 300 metres. Very strange, but that is the race.
“We can’t change it so we will focus on Paris.”
Thus far Cavendish has been outpaced by former team-mate Andre Greipel in the event, with the Lotto-Soudal rider netting three stage wins to his one. That makes the German the big favourite for the final stage but Cavendish’s successful history on the Champs Elysees, his desire to end the race on a high and his ongoing contract negotiations all give him ample motivation for the 21st stage.
It will be seen later today if he is successful but, with Trek Factory racing confirming an interest, other teams thought to be in the running too and a possible renewal offer with Etixx – Quick-Step not ruled out, it seems he has time on his side with regards where he competes in 2016 and beyond.