Bernhard Eisel: “If I stay at Team Sky I’ll have a lot of free time”

by Sophie Smith


Bernhard Eisel had no other offer on the table when he turned down a two-year extension from powerhouse Team Sky for the prospect of riding alongside old sparring partner Mark Cavendish from 2016.

The Austrian penned a three-year contract with MTN-Qhubeka on Friday, which was confirmed by the team yesterday along with the signatures of Cavendish and Australian pilot Mark Renshaw.

Eisel parted ways with Cavendish at the end of 2012, choosing, to the apparent shock of his long-time team-mate and friend, to stay with Sky over following the latter to Etixx-QuickStep.

Sky did not select Eisel for its Tour de France winning team this season but the 34-year-old was presented with an attractive two-year deal around the time of the race, which he took a gamble in forgoing for only a verbal assurance from Cavendish and company.

“For me it was the better decision, more risky but at the end everything worked out,” he told Cyclingtips in a phone interview from Austria overnight.

“It was during the Tour Cav was like, ‘I don’t want stay here [at Etixx-QuickStep],’” he laughed. “It was like, join us and don’t go anywhere, don’t sign anything, we’ll find a solution.

“I knew I would always get a contract but I had nothing. I signed actually the contract on Friday and sent it on Monday so it’s still in the post. I was always in contact with Cav and then also already with [2016 team title sponsor] Dimension Data, [MTN-Qhubeka team principal] Douglas Ryder and Simon [Bayliff], Cav’s manger.”

Cavendish’s move to MTN-Qhubeka it is understood was dependent on the acquisition of additional sponsorship that would cover his wage and that of his ‘entourage’.

The team has recently announced a new title sponsorship deal with Dimension Data, which will commence from next year, as well as an agreement with global firm Deloitte.

Eisel noted the established stature of both companies however said money, the amount of which he could have there or thereabouts got at Sky, was not a decisive factor in his decision to move.

“It was more when they offered me a three-year deal, I was, like, ‘oh, wait a second, what are you doing?’ I had a quick thought, do I really want to race three years? I’m 15 years pro and, like, everything gets harder when you get older,” he mused.

Eisel will depart Sky on good terms and hopes to recover from a fractured radius in time to compete at the Japan Cup and so conclude a career chapter, spanning four seasons, with the WorldTour outfit on a high note.

The peloton patron has once before said he’d like to see out his career with Cavendish and while this move to MTN-Qhubeka may allow that, Eisel’s impetus for change was based on more than duration and nostalgia of a Highroad alum reunion at the Pro Continental squad.

“I had good offer from Team Sky, a really good offer, on the table and I just had to sign it,” he said. “Then I watched the Tour and was like, I can’t sit at home, there’s more out there. Of course there’s more than the Tour but it was like, I don’t want to sit it out. I would be grumpy and I wouldn’t do Team Sky a favour, I wouldn’t do myself a favour, my family, just being there.

“I was already looking around to do study on the internet because I was thinking if I stay at Team Sky I’ll have a lot of free time.

“Training is a major part of [Sky’s philosophy] and I actually prefer just to race.”

Eisel raced the Tour for Sky in 2012 and 2014 and does not begrudge its decision to leave him out of its all-conquering line-up, which he admits he was too fatigued and not fit enough for this season. The veteran has chiefly been the road captain and back bone of Sky’s spring classics assembly, instilling knowledge, but even there saw development that warranted a fresh start and change in pace.

“Luke Rowe and Ian [Stannard], they’re younger. I taught everything I could to Luke Rowe, he will get stronger and then it’s just a matter of time before he replaces me,” he said.

Eisel has observed more than two weeks off the bike following a crash at the GP de Quebec in which he fractured his left radius after hitting a pothole. He is set to make a call on the Japan Cup by next week. His attention thereafter will turn to the 2016 season for which the self-imposed pressure is already on.

“At the moment definitely Twitter and Facebook is going bananas but at the same time now the real work starts,” Eisel said.

The first-time dad will have a clearer picture of his 2016 programme at a November training camp in South Africa but has already outlined a desire to tutor the team’s younger talent and aid Cavendish.

“I can’t wait to see Renshaw. Normally he comes over from Australia and complains about the jet lag and it’s, like, ‘yeah, welcome,’” he added, tongue-in-cheek.

Twitter: @SophieSmith86

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