Cavendish to Team Sky

Wiggins and Cavendish

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.

Changing Sky
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.

Team duties
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/

28 thoughts on “Cavendish to Team Sky”

  1. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about really. It make sense and everyone’s been discussing it since Sky were set up. If you have serious ambitions in the sport and want to keep your sponsors happy then you need to be winning races and have a high profile in the sport. Those who aren’t 100% into cycling will still remember the Cav ‘I’m on the phone’ celebration in the 2009 TdeF (I can’t immediately think of a decent equivalent to Sky!). As for Cav and the rest of the riders, you do, rightly, state that these guys are all professionals doing a job. Having Cav gives Sky more chances to win races and I don’t necessarily see it as meaning that Wiggins will lose support in the mountains. No team these days ‘provides’ support in the same way that Disco and the Posties used to do with Lance with effectively having a mountain lead out train of 4 or 5 riders taking the team leader up the climbs. In fact, if you compare the way races are ridden now to how they were ridden in the late 90s, it seems more balanced.

    That is all.

  2. It’s interesting to look at this in terms of the points you raised in “Valuing a rider: past performance vs. future prospects”.
    I guess HTC won’t be at risk of not having enough points to qualify as a ProTour team next year but they are having trouble finding sponsorship. It would look much better to have a known winner on the team (say, Goss), than a gone winner (Cavendish). Maybe it’s in Bob’s interests to sacrifice some results but give Goss a chance to have a go…

  3. A good move for Team Sky and Cavendish with this year’s worlds and next year’s Olympic road race suited to Cavendish.

    Other riders such as Ben Swift, Greg Henderson, Mark Renshaw, may or may not wish to be in the Team Sky team if their main role will be lead out for Cavo. However there are enough races and stages to go round so I don’t see it as a big problem. Ben Swift and Mark Cavendish will be an excellent sprint combo.

    It could have a slight effect on Wiggins and the Tour de France, but privately they must know Wiggo is unlikely to ever do better than Top 5 or Top 10 so better to have a more rounded team able to challenge for stages rather than focus on GC.

    In Britain Mark Cavendish (MBE) is the name the general public generally knows about. If he wins the Olympic Road Race it will be arise Sir Cavo! Team Sky/GB will really get behind Cavo for the Olympics. And also Bradley may choose to focus on the track Team Trial at next years Olympics and even skip the Tour de France.

  4. Both Cav and Brad, indeed all the brits on the Sky team are going to be here in the north east of England for the national championships on the 26th of this month, this gives an added dynamic to that event and I for one shall be watching “the chemistry” as well as the racing. For my part I don’t see any probs with fielding a Tour team for both, others do it with success, but for sure the “domestiques” on the team would be kept busy!

  5. Good move for SKY as much as they might have GC ambitions they simply don’t have the rider to do it, HTC are hardly a poor team to try and imitate. They have already signed another rider Sergio Luis Henao if you believe his interview who could be a GC hope and will help Uran as well I would of thought.

  6. It looks as though Wiggins feels more secure in his position as team leader, too – I recall him saying that part of the reason he left Highroad for Garmin was that he didn’t want to just be a lead out man for Cavendish.

  7. Also – as you say, if I were Davide Appollonio or Ben Swift I might well be on the phone to my agent. Cavendish is still only 26 – they could spend the best years of their careers waiting to move up into his place.

  8. Let’s hope Cav will still be able to speak his mind working for Sky now. It’s so bleedin boring to listen to rider interviews these days unless its conducted moments after they cross the line. Gone are the days of youthful folly speaking its mind. Cav is one of the very few that can let loose. bless him.

  9. So who are Sky going to have at the Tour next year?

    Wiggins si down for concentrating on the Olympics and I’m not sure what Cavendish’s ambitions are, regarding the Olympics, I’m guessing they’ll be a key part of his season though?

    That’s going to negate two riders for a chunk of the season I’d have thought?

    In those circumstancces Gilbert would be a good signing, but what to do with Flecha and EBH as well?

  10. The Olympics will have a big impact on Team SKY’s program for 2012. The Olympics follow immediately after the Tour de France and several British riders have serious medal chances on the road and on the track. Wiggins track Team Time Trial and road time trial, Cavo road race, Ben Swift road race, David Millar road time trial, Geraint Thomas track team time trial and road race, Alex Dowsett road time trial.

    So I expect Team SKY to modify their race program around the Olympics. Maybe Bradley will ride the Giro rather than the Tour De France. Cavo might drop out of the Tour de France after 10 days or so.

    For Brailsford the Olympics is the biggest objective next year, both for public appeal and for securing future funding and sponsorship.

  11. So how is it you have no problem with Sky signing Cav this early in this post, but in your linked post on GreenEdge and Goss you called them for a gross breach of the rules, accused them of tapping up, and suggesting gross conflicts of interest? Do you completely mis-read the rules the first time, or just more comfortable when its Sky doing the ‘tapping up’

  12. Sky have not signed him yet. Cavendish is currently on a million a year from HTC and Sky are struggling to find the money to match his demands of 2 to 2.5 million plus having Renshaw and Eisel as part of the deal. Sky have yet to make decisions on which riders to let go at the end of the year to free up enough money for signing Cavendish.
    For the salary quoted in the Daily Mail I expect many other teams to start making offers to Cav. So you have to ask who told Richard Moore what and what was his motive?

  13. Laurence Guttman: Goss is leaving.

    PeterC: I think you’ve ignored something crucial: the difference is the story of being paid for points by the future team whilst racing for another. We all know riders talk about moving teams during the season, today alone we’ve got news on Castroviejo, Nibali and Van den Broeck all involved in talks and some even shaking hands. But I should have clarified, it’s that, a handshake and no formal contract seems to have been signed. What’s not right is signing pre-contracts that contain destabilising incentives and signing bonuses. The rules allow riders to talk but not sign and reaching a financial agreement is not permitted.

    AntiTeamSky: very interesting, thanks.

  14. I wonder if High Road is transitioning towards being a stage racing team. Cycling News was reporting that High Road didn’t offer to renew Cav’s contract and they are also letting Goss go. Maybe they are just short on cash since they haven’t (maybe) found a new sponsor yet but it just seems that High Road is too good for things to just fall apart like this. They also have a lot of upcoming stage racing talent in the Velits brothers, VanGarderen and Tony Martin. Stapleton’s teams have dominated the sprint stages. Maybe he has gotten bored with that and is looking for a new challenge.

  15. I tend to the view that this is both fishing trip, on the part of Cav’s agents, and Olympics prep by Sky if he does go.

    Brad and Geraint are both focusing on Team Pursuit next year – Geraint told me that a while ago – so unlikely to ride the Tour. Both planning on doing Giro as a big block of endurance training as in 2008.

    Cav is doing the road race at the Olympics so could go into it off the back of a strong Tour drilling the leadout train of 5 riders (I think the Olympic team is max of 6?) – Stannard, Dowsett, Hunt, Swift, Kennaugh. Pretty compelling because the course is so flat and with 40km flat run-in perfect for them. Sky would therefore get their brand associated with another of the first big medals of the games. Job done from their perspective.

  16. But Richard Moore, in his article, fails to cite any sources, even anonymous, for his information. There are no facts backed up by any evidence whatsoever. Team Sky’s (and why can’t he mention who he communicated with) equivalent of a “no comment”, is not an affirmation of the claim made. So while this ultimately may prove to be true, this isn’t news, it is a rumor. I suppose we’ll know on August 1st.

  17. @Beau – will be interesting to see what Renshaw does. Reading between the lines in interviews he has the ambition (& the talent I might add) to be the supported sprinter at some stage in the future. So will he be thinking to go with Cav, or look to be the main sprinter with Highroad, or elsewhere, or even team up with Goss at GreenEdge? (I’ve no idea what his contract situation with Highroad is).

  18. As a huge Mick Rogers fan, I was always disappointed seeing him on ‘lead out’ duty for Cav during the Tour de France – it was clear who the main rider in the team was, and GC was just an afterthought…

    I’d be surprised if Wiggins wasn’t told to do the same thing… In all seriousness, Cav’s stage wins will bring more publicity for Sky than Wiggins Top 10 or even Top 5 on GC in the Tour…

    re: Renshaw – I would have thought at some point he’d want to have a crack at being a lead sprinter himself. Surely this would be a good opportunity for him, either staying with HTC or moving to GreenEdge??

  19. I dont think youre particularly accurate on the whole Brits/TDF/Olympics point, STB.

    Wiggins and Thomas will go for the Team Pursuit yes, at the expense of the TDF.
    Dowsett does look favourite to ride the Time Trial (Millar is unable to, Wiggins focusing on track, and it might only be 1 rider per nation anyway)
    Then the road race will be 5-6 riders, including whoever rides the time trial. So Dowsett, Cavendish, and Swift, then your pick from the rest – the likes of Blythe, Stannard etc. With the road being before the track, dont expect to see Thomas involved.

    And no chance of Cavendish withdrawing from the TDF early for the Olympics. He isnt going to make that mistake again, certainly not when it is a road race he is targeting at the Olympics! He will try to do well at the Olympics, but TDF will be top priority for him.

  20. Marc

    Your analysis is good. I also forgot Millar is banned from the Olympics, however Dowsett could be a medal contender if the course is to his liking.

    Yes I expect Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas to be focused on the Team Time Trial above all else so probably won’t ride the Olympic road events (except maybe as support rider and then dropping out before the finish). The Team pursuit is a few days after the road race so it might be feasible (although risky) to have Bradley or Geraint ride. However with Stannard, Swift, Dowsett, Blythe to support Cavendish he will have a strong team.

    Personally I think Cavendish will be hungry for the Olympic road race title. He has proved himself in the Tour de France and missing out on a couple of possible stage wins next year will not bother him. Although his approach might be different if he wins the World Road Race this year in Copenhagen. He needs to show he is more than a one-trick pony and win some of the classics and other major titles. Green Jersey at the Tour de France must also be a target, but maybe not in 2012.

    Also it depends if Cavendish moves to Sky. If he does Brailsford will definitely be Olympics focussed. It is crucial for future funding and sponsorship. Also the Olympics are huge in Britain, remember the fuss over the track cycling team after 2008? And not forgetting Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley who did a fantastic job on the road in Bejing.

    This thread makes me realise how strong the British road cycling squad is becoming, with many upcoming riders such as Adam Blythe and Peter Kennaugh, to name but two.

  21. I don’t think Boasson-Hagen has to move as he simply isn’t a pure sprinter, he can sprint but he can do a lot lot more recent evidence in the Dauphine by destroying the field at the bottom of climbs and a good TT. Appollonio/Swift/Henderson are much more likely to be pushed out although I expect Henderson might go to GreenEdge.

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