Sports director Brian Holm plans to stay with Etixx-Quick-Step regardless of whether his long-time protégé Mark Cavendish leaves the squad at the end of this season.
Holm told CyclingTips that he would bid the Manxman a professional adieu should he and his entourage, including Australian lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw, move on.
Holm has significantly influenced Cavendish’s career and the two have a well-documented affiliation, first at various incarnations of HTC-Highroad, with whom the latter turned professional in 2007, and then Etixx-Quick-Step, separating only for a season when Cavendish signed with Team Sky for 2012.
“Keep in mind I was with QuickStep before anyone else from HTC, and I stay here,” Holm said in a phone interview from his native Denmark.
“Cav and me we have our big fights, we don’t always agree, but to have big fights you have to be good friends. If we split up I’m going to say it’s been an honour working with him all those years.”
Mark Renshaw has previously stipulated he will remain loyal to Cavendish as the pair, it is understood, both continue team negotiations through respective rider agents.
“They belong together the two of them but if the team have the budget for the two of them that will be interesting to see,” Holm speculated. “Of course Cav, he’s going to have offers, he can go and continue winning for another three or four years, but it’s going to be less and less.
“With Renshaw, his manager, how much can he get paid with Cav and how much if he goes to another team … I don’t know for the moment what they’re going to do. It’s up to them and the managers.”
Cavendish was again linked to Pro Continental outfit MTN-Qhubeka earlier this week, although its general manager Brian Smith said the 30-year-old would have to bring a co-sponsor with him to afford the transfer.
Cash seems to be the main impetus in reported negotiations and at a point in Cavendish’s career where he is still competitive but no longer the dominant sprinter at major meets, including the Tour de France, in which he won a stage in July.
“I would be disappointed with him if he was only thinking about the money; it wouldn’t be the Cav I knew if he thought, ‘I just go for the biggest number,’” Holm said.
“Of course, everything in life has a price, you don’t have to be stupid, but he will always think a little bit more with his heart than his head with contracts.
“I know he likes QuickStep and I know he wants to stay but if [CEO] Patrick [Lefevere] doesn’t have the money he doesn’t have the money.”
In February Lefevere underlined the importance of performance, especially at the Tour, in regards to Cavendish’s contract and the value of it, telling Cyclingnews, “We can’t hide the fact that the Tour de France is also really important. If Mark is beaten five times by [Marcel] Kittel then we’ll have another discussion. He’s a really popular rider, he’s a star but if you don’t win then your star starts to fade”.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) was the best sprinter at the Tour this year collecting four stage wins — including the final in Paris on the Champs Elysees — and on terrain that afforded few opportunities for the fast-men.
“If they [Etixx-Quick-Step] would have given Cav a bigger contract if he won three stages [at the Tour] I don’t know. I don’t think that would have changed a lot,” Holm said of the 26-time Tour stage winner.
“The most amazing thing about Cav, and what people always seem to forget is … I’ve heard that how many times he lost his speed, he was too fat, whatever. I’ve heard that since ’07, when people said we should never sign him because he would never make it … but how many riders have been in the top level that many years? You wouldn’t see it often.
“Greipel has had his best season so far ever – at 33 – so why shouldn’t Cav?”
Greipel will vie for stage wins against Cavendish at the Tour of Britain from Sunday where Renshaw will also continue a comeback from illness and injury. The eight-day race features lengthy stages, 180.45km on average, which, with six-man teams, Holm said, will be interesting.
“I’m not too impressed with the long stages on the narrow roads with six riders,” he said. “We’re not going to control the whole bunch every day like we tried last year – that would be suicide.”