The news this morning, scooped by Richard Moore, is that Mark Cavendish will ride for Team Sky for 2012. I believe the deal was agreed on the first rest day of the Giro d’Italia, that he will be accompanied others from HTC-Highroad and that Sky will also announce other significant signings in due course too.
It marks a long journey for Cavendish, once spurned by the British track system, he made his own way into the pro ranks via the lowly Team Sparkasse, whilst contemporaries were shepherded by the state-funded system. But this gave him the focus on the road and the rest is history.
It’s not a surprise but still, some were discounting the idea given the frosty relationships between Cavendish, team boss Dave Brailsford and – until now – team leader Bradley Wiggins. But personal problems can be fixed. Especially when millions of pounds change hands.
Transfer season in full swing
We’re seeing the news filled with stories of rider transfers. Some agents are almost conducting a public auction, trying to create a bidding war. In recent days the future for Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen has been headline news. But is this allowed? Here’s the UCI rule:
2.15.120 a A transfer period extends from 1 August to 20 October.
2.15.120 b A UCI ProTeam or licence applicant may only recruit riders during the transfer period. For the purposes of this article “recruit” shall be deemed to mean concluding a contract with a rider to ride for the UCI ProTeam or licence applicant’s team, including situations where the rider in question is already under contract to the same UCI ProTeam or licence applicant at the moment of that recruitment, e.g. in the case of the renewal of an existing contract.
Put simply a team and rider can only sign a deal from 1 August onwards. Note the loose wording of 2.15.120 b means that the transfer period is when deals shall be “concluded”. This means everyone can talk, discuss the terms of contracts, agree a salary, shake hands and just about everything but ink the formal contract of employment. As such it’s possible to sign a pre-contract to all but guarantee a rider’s services.
As such the transfer period is merely a window for public announcements for the big names, although it remains a busy period for many riders and agents.
This marks a real shift for Team Sky, the presence of Mark Cavendish will mean the team heads into a major races with a big train dedicated to the sprinter. As such Bradley Wiggins – on a four year contract – might find himself lacking support in the mountains… that is if he’s not drafted in for the lead out.
Similarly, others on the team might find they’ve got new roles as wagons in the lead out train. Indeed, it won’t be a surprise to imagine ambitious Sky riders dialling their agents this morning, looking for an exit route. Plus I suspect several riders on two year contracts signed when Sky was formed for 2010 will be heading for the exit. Certainly the team will have a different flavour for 2012.
This will bring the wins Sky needs. Until Bradley Wiggins victory in the Dauphiné the team had counted on too many wins in lesser races like the Tour Down Under, the Bayern Rundfahrt instead of the classics and grand tours. For such a big budget, the results haven’t quite been there, especially given the British public is unfamiliar with most races beyond the Tour de France.
The Tour de France will be a confusing time for HTC-Highroad. Matthew Goss and Mark Cavendish are going their separate ways at the end of the season and we might well see them sprinting separately in July. As I’ve written before, Goss might have his own motivations and as stern as Brian Holm and Rolf Aldag can be, they will have their work cut out to make the team function with its customary efficiency. Indeed, Team Sky are now motivated in no small way to help Mark Cavendish. That said, every one here is professional and I suspect we’ll see Goss get his chance in the uphill sprints, whilst Cavendish gets full support for the flat finishes.
Keep your eyes open but if you want to see real cooperation, wait for the Worlds in Copenhagen when the British team will be united, ethically and financially, to set up Mark Cavendish. It will be a dress rehearsal for the 2012 Olympic Games road race.
Photo: Stephen Farrand/cyclingnews.com