Cavendish, Specialized, Omega-Quickstep and the vacuum

Mark Cavendish

You’re probably more interested in racing than rumours but where Mark Cavendish will ride next year is still up in the year and even if speculation isn’t your thing, there are some interesting ideas behind this.

I had thought Cavendish was going to Team Sky, only that US bike manufacturer Specialized were coming with him. But this sponsorship plan looks increasingly unlikely. First Pinarello have a firm three year deal with Team Sky meaning the British team are contracted to ride the Italian frames in 2012. And I believe the same is true of helmet supplier Kask, another frustration for Specialized.

Specialized is very keen to retain Cavendish and is attempting to get him to join the newly merged Omega Pharma – Quickstep squad. It’s here things get mysterious. Specialized had announced a deal to supply Omega Pharma Quick Step for 2012 only they’ve since deleted the press release from the website… but it’s available via Google’s cache. Could this be because they want to re-announce the deal, only with a bigger name and a louder fanfare? Also Quick Step’s boss Patrick Lefevere had said his team was full but this morning brings news of Addy Engels getting dropped by the squad.

All this is speculation and I’m slightly wary of relaying all of this. But we can learn two good lessons from this.

  • First is the power of large bike manufacturers in the sport, as we saw Trek pushing for the Radioshack-Leopard merger. Specialized have been similar, for example they help cover much of Alberto Contador’s wages at Saxo Bank. These companies “have to have” the best cyclists in the world on their bikes in order to generate the marketing messages associated with Tour de France glory.
  • Second, we can see how rumours spread in a vacuum. Rumours have been circulating for a long time and first surfaced in print mid-June. The longer the story goes on the more I suspect fans will, for want of a better phrase, lose patience. It can be exciting to analyse the compositions of new teams, to look to the future but there comes a point where the longer this goes on, the more the fun goes out of the forward looking analysis. Call it story fatigue. We should note that this is not Cavendish’s doing, he himself does not seem to be stringing out this process.

Talking of the future and fatigue, spare a thought for Tony Martin. The German is an excellent rider in his own right but has seen some opportunities dry up after selfless service to the HTC-Highroad sprint train. A move to Quickstep was supposed to help him blossom, especially in stage races only this morning he might be asking what his role will be for 2012.

The subject of Mark Cavendish’s employment for 2012 has more twists and turns than a Dolomite descent. But there are some certainties. The clock is ticking as transfer season closes on 20 October. Specialized want Cavendish on their bikes for 2012. The irony is that whatever happens, wherever he goes and what bike he rides ultimately doesn’t make a huge difference. Mark Cavendish is surely certain to win many races in 2012.

47 thoughts on “Cavendish, Specialized, Omega-Quickstep and the vacuum”

  1. Could it be that specialized also want to keep Martin riding the Shiv? The bike is yet to be defeated in a world TT championship and it would be good to keep it that way

  2. Is it not also worth mentioning that Cav has been working with Nike for sometime now and British Cycling and Sky are firmly in the Addidas camp… While cycling is no where near as important to these two company’s the spats that have happened in the past over players in football are legendary…

  3. I think sky have a way better train and structure for him to get wins, but then specialized are obviously going to front some cash for an omega quickstep move, interesting to see whether he shoots for glory or money

    also sky have most of his team mates for next years world champs and the olympic road race he says he wants, plus a lot of their facilities are here so he could spend way more time with peta, can’t really see him passing that up for a bit more money (although if OPQS give him a contador size pay check that might work? lol)

  4. Is it likely that the relationship with his (former) directeur sportif, Brian Holm, could be part of Cavendish’s decision making?

    Brian Holm rode in the british car during the World Championships, and it’s seen before, with the Brutnell/Armstrong, that a bond like that, can be worthy of a few victories.

  5. Try this:
    • Cavendish signed a letter of intent with Team Sky in July 2010 for a three year deal as of 2012.
    • Cavendish signed a “deal” with Wassermann Media Group in September 2011.

    Wassermann does not receive any provision of deals/contracts made before their agreement last month, so obviously they are trying to talk up and renew every commercial aspect around Cavendish. Who can blame them by the way; this is what they do for a living.

    And for sure: Cavendish will ride for whom willing to pay the most on the bike he is being told to!

    However the use of these very famous letters of intent have recently proved to be false secure for riders, staff, team management and for the teams. For the riders sake I would suggest that new time-line rules about signing final contracts would be worked out to make it more secure. Don’t want to light up the old discussion though, but it seems that everybody with a taylor made suit and a semi-Italien silk tie or a UCI World Champion jersey can do whatever they want in terms of breaking written and signed agreements.

    Riders should stick to what Chuck Berry used to say, standing on the stage waiting until the owner of the establishment came up and asked when he would start to play: “SHOW ME THE MONEY”!

  6. Omega-Quickstep has never been off the cards and would indisputably make infinitely more sense for both Cavendish and his image rights partners.

  7. The Nike Adidas thing cannot be relevant as Cav only wears Nike shoes and Adidas shoes are branded by their original maker Mavic (are Mavic an Adidas subsiduary?). The current Sky guys wear all sorts of shoes, which are normally under personal endorsements, the majority of them in Bont and Sky Blue accented Sidi’s.

  8. Couldn’t it be that Sky and Specialized ended up working out a deal so Specialized pulled out of sponsoring Omega-Quickstep and therefore pulled the announcement? I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a similar announcement featuring Cavendish, Wiggins, Froome on the Specialized website in the next couple weeks.

  9. Follow the money? More like, follow the gold. Gold medal, that is…I get the feeling a gold medal at London 2012 is the primary focus for Cav next season, and it’s hard to imagine that he’d have a smooth transition into Team GB following his (shortened?) stint in the TdF just a few days before. That won’t be a problem if he’s on Team Sky. And if there’s anything we’ve learned lately, it’s that contracts aren’t iron clad. Just ask Mercedes over at Leopard. So I imagine a couple of attorneys meetings and a check exchange could take care of Sky’s pesky Pinarello problem. Maybe it’s already happened, which would explain Wiggo’s tweet this morning that he bought his Pinarello, now that he’s not getting a free one anymore. And finally, maybe Cav will ride a Specialized rebadged as a Huffy. I mean Pinarello. It wouldn’t be the first time!

  10. Of note – Wiggins has just annouced on his twitter page that he likes his Pinarello so much he has bought it? Why would he do that as surely they would have given it to him and he will be riding them next season? Or, are Sky about to terminate the final year (quite commom to have this clause) their Pinarello contract and jump on board Specialized bikes?! Or, it could have been his TT bike and he can’t ride it in competition next year – but I doubt it?!

  11. For starters, I’m pretty sure Brian Holm was not in the British Cycling car at the Worlds.

    Doesn’t Pinarello’s deal with Sky/British Cycling involve providing bikes for every level of the sport? At the Tour of Britain, there were kids from Go-Ride clubs all riding Pinarello mountain bikes and wesaring Kask helmets. The road academy and track riders all ride Pinarellos. I’m not saying Specialized couldn’t also do that, just that it might be more complicated than swapping out a few Dogmas.

    What has changed since June? Back then Team Sky were very confident that Cav would sign for them. I was personally told “definitely” by a man with very little hair. The bike-sponsor situation certainly hasn’t changed.

  12. When Levi announced for Omega last week he said another big team announcement was coming. Also, I was told by someone very high up in the Highroad org that Cav going to Sky could be problematic because a number of riders left HTC so they wouldn’t have to ride for Cav all the time.

  13. Even if Cav could wear his Nike shoes with Sky, it’s unlikely Nike would be happy paying him a bunch of money while all his other gear is plastered with Adidas.

  14. Thanks for the comments. If anything we see the story is more open than you can think with a lot of different interests at stake. This is more than the transfer of a rider but the competing interests of several large corporates.

  15. Football (or Soccer) players wear boots from other brands whilst their kit is made by another. Take David Beckham at Man Utd, he wears Adidas boots but wore a shirt by Nike. I’m sure there is more up to date examples but I don’t really follow the sport any more as the players are a bunch of overpaid wan….

  16. Specialized is the new cycling manafacturer for Quick Step since Martin wanted to ride on Specialized so no Merckx anymore and Sky won’t change from Pinarello to Specialized it seems..

  17. In all reality how does Sky manage TDF expectations for both Wiggo and Cav? Cav is still young and has a lot of years ahead of him, but Wiggins is in the ‘twilight’ of his career so why not pick up Cav a couple years down the road?
    I’ve always been a sucker for the GC and sprinters are a nice consolation for a boring stage. I liked watching Highroad rip the shit out of the peloton during a strong crosswind (stage 3 2009 TDF) or their dominating lead-out train rather than another predictable win by Cav.

  18. @Toby Beckham was at United for under a year after the Nike kit deal took effect and moved direct to a Three stripes team. The investment in the Olympic kit from adidas (it was put in a cupboard for 4 years after the last Olympics because it was the best on the track) cannot be forgotten.

    I think what is clear from all this is that there is more to play in this than just Cav moving to a new job. Personal kit sponsors and their effect on how a sports person is paid is now a large part of negotiations. If addidas, a bike manufacturer or any other party that is currently paying Cav do not want to be replaced or the new party does not pay the current rate it’s gonna be problematic.

    That said as someone commented elsewhere today; specialized couldn’t of paid for this publicity today 😉

  19. @JT
    According to a danish newspaper, who had an interview with Brian Holm just after the race, he did sit in the british team car.

    I quote from the article below: “The Danish sporting director was a counselor in the car at the British team when Mark Cavendish Sunday became world champion in cycling in Rudersdal north of Copenhagen”

    Article is here:|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8

  20. @Niall, Cristiano Ronaldo is sponsored by Nike and plays for Real Madrid who have Adidas as their shirt manufacturer. He moved from MUFC, a Nike club. Lionel Messi meanwhile, the face of Adidas, plays for Barca in Nike kit.

    There’s no doubt that the marketers like and would prefer symmetry and I’m sure that individual sponsorships make for more drawn out contract negotiations in terms of paperwork but I think that in broad terms the individual / team sponsorship thing might be overplayed.

  21. I think the suggestions of stirring are more accurate. Team Sky reportedly took great care choosing their kit “partners”, they chose Pinarello because they would supply Sky with the bikes Sky wanted, not what Pinarello thought they should have/would want, which appeared to be the issue with other bike manufacturers. I wonder how willing Specialized are to have will imposed on them, doesn’t seem their way to me.

    However, a vacuum needs filling…

  22. Cav has been involved with Ellingworth, Sky riders, through the GB Cycling Academy for yrs, and has a bond with them that is good for the Olympics, regardless of what team he will ride for in 2012! As far as being a ‘pure’ sprinter is concerned I have a hunch he is gong to try to develop himself into a more diverse sprinter over the next few years, less dependant on a sprint train! Guess he feels a little small compared to the likes of Gilbert, Hushovd, Sagan, etc! And we all know that sprinters are the big ego’s in the peleton!

    As far as bike is concerned…remember the launch of the Specialized Venge! He was very much involved in the +/-3 yrs development of that bike and was ‘major chuffed’ with the final product! I can’t see him wanting to give up all that R&D time and ride time with his new baby venge!

    Still, all the rumours and hype and shit of the past few months is starting to become redundant! Make a bloody announcvement, Cav!!!

  23. BSkyB own the Pinarello frames, riders have to buy them but don’t get first dibs on them.
    Sky team are not happy with Adidas, long delays this year
    BC / Sky are happy with Pinarello, Murdoch won’t have them riding a far easton brand (or Yank I expect).
    Cav wants c £3mil plus his current endorsements – big delays around image rights
    HTC Highroad won’t let him announce his new team until they are happy for him to. As he’s just won the World Champs I expect they will want to maximise their marketing before his new team can.
    Specialized have lots of money, not more than Sky though.

    Loads more on this whole situation happening so will be interesting when it’s all sorted!!!

  24. @fisheral1 Greipel is with lotto ridley not with OPQST..

    Robert goes to lotto now to and Malacarne is going to Europcar probably so they’re suddenly making some space.. Also Specialized doesn’t need more money than Sky to get Cav to OPQST. The Agreement they have with Cav the money they can give to them and offcourse OPQST will for sure want to pay nice money to Cav and when not money enough there’s a person called Bakala who has a solution for that..

  25. Spare a thought for all the casualties of Specialized and Cav’s high handed actions.
    All the poor HTC riders trying to ride for their own results, not Cav’s. They thought they were free…:-(
    Canyon bikes, who undoubtedly are about to get flicked.
    Helmet, shoe, even wheel contracts, all Bigfooted by Specialized.

    Who knows, it may actually be cheaper to pay half of Cav’s 3M euro salary, that provide that many free bikes to british Cycling!?
    Oh, and they will be on Sram too. Wonder if Mavic gets bought out be Lefebvre/Specialized so they have to ride those piece of crap Rovals? Might reveal Cav’s beloved Venge to be a real dog.

  26. … and here was I thinking that it’s not about the bike, but the engine that powers it!!

    This is proving to be one of the most complicated and unpredictable transfer seasons in a long time. Such a convoluted deal (however it turns out) is just consistent with everything else that’s been going on.

    I think I need to stop trying to follow it all, and just look at complete teams/rider list in a month or two…!!

  27. @Kasper
    Thanks for the link but the article does not quote Brian Holm saying he was in the team car. I watched that car drive past me 17 times that day and I did not see the distinctive figure of Holm. Anyway, it’s not that important in this transfer saga.

  28. Agree with @CGradeCyclist’s comment ! Happy to await 20 oct for the formal announcements ! Journos get paid when they write and how often do they have the complete picture ? Everyone seems to follow ” Team Orders” these days whether Racers , Manufacturers or Media !

    Congrats to ” King Cav ” for delivering the WIN that was everyones’ expectation ! Once again he demonstrated his prowess under pressure !

    HTC team is going to be missed by ALL !

  29. The interesting part of the Specialized link is their tie up with McLaren F1. In the BC / Sky world of marginal gains there can’t be a more impressive R&D / Engineering outfit world wide than the McLaren centre.

  30. I wonder if he’ll miss his target..
    Sure, he worths much for Sky, but maybe not that much as his management company thinks.
    To increase one’s value one has to have an alternative which is willing yo pay huge money too.
    Now, which other team would pay Cavendish the big money?

    It’s the same thing… If HTC failed to get new sponsors, maybe Cavendish can fail too?

  31. With Levi annocing his move to OPQS today (?) and the Specialized deal, it looks like Specialized just put the press release out a little early and without the “big name”. Off topic, but I will happily eat my helmet if Levi makes it onto the podium of the TdF as he believe he will in 2012.

    Regarding Cav, I’d be surprised if he goes for anyone else but Sky. It was clear he had a great time riding with a lot of the riders in Copenhagen, even if it wasn’t a grade A lead out, they still rode incredibly strongly and solidly for him. It will be interesting to see how the sponsorships play out – and I’m still intrigued by what Cav called the “extra little something” that sealed the deal with his team for next year.

  32. @Darren

    “As far as bike is concerned…remember the launch of the Specialized Venge! He was very much involved in the +/-3 yrs development of that bike and was ‘major chuffed’ with the final product! I can’t see him wanting to give up all that R&D time and ride time with his new baby venge!”

    But haven’t HTC only had Spesh bikes for one year? Weren’t they with Scott before that?

  33. Omega-Quick Step have now off-loaded four riders with Fred Robert and Jan Tratnik, both with valid contracts for 2012, apparently being “placed” into other teams. Something’s up.

    Cavendish seems caught in the middle of a big play amongst Sky, Specialized, Nike and others although he’s no bystander of course. As Scott of The Velocast said Sky look good for saying “we’ve sent him a contract but he hasn’t signed it” for now.

  34. 20 riders definitely at QST next year – Boonen, De Weert, Devenyns, Van Keirsbulck (neo-pro), Vandewalle, Vermote, Chavanel and Stybar already there. Pineau with a 1-year option. P.Velits, M.Velits, Vandenbergh, Kwiatowski (neo-pro), Golas, Martin, Rabon, Grabsch, Fenn (neo-pro), Trentin (neo-pro) and Leipheimer transferring in.

    4 riders who I’m not sure of their contract details – Capelle, Maes, Kunitski and Steegmans.

    9 riders whose contracts end this year (no news on them) – Keisse, Van Impe, Bandiera, Cataldo, Chicchi, Reda, Ciolek, Stauff and Terpstra.

    6 definitely leaving – Robert, Tratnik, Seeldraeyers, De Maar, Engels and Malacarne.

    Can’t see many of the 9 staying, so I would assume there would be space for Cav and possibly Eisel. Though Eisel said a while ago he knew where he was going (unless he meant ‘where Cav ends up’).

  35. At the end of the day, Cav will join the team that gives him the best chance of winning. He’s said that publicly. Despite all this speculation, I still think he thinks that is Team Sky. This period of uncertainty is renegotiating that verbal agreement with Sky over stuff like image rights after World Champs, the sponsor stuff for me is a red herring.

  36. Hi Steve D,

    Must clarify! HTC were busy for a while with Specialized & McLaren on a project basis as they wanted a sprinters-specific bike! Scott were not impressing with the delays with the F01 Project whereas Specialized were further down the line due to the McLaren collab! Once Specialized teamed up with HTC Cav jumped into the working group! The dude is very technically-minded when it comes to bikes and had his own ideas since he has also been working on the tech side of things with PRO for a few yrs!

  37. Pretty sure this is simpler than the press want to make it. Isn’t everything?!

    Arranged an outline deal, won worlds, now wants a better deal (understandably).

    Sure there will be some detail on bike manufacturers and other sponsors wanting to follow the money (i.e. Cav) but I am 99% sure Cav himself had made up his mind where he was going within a month of knowing highroad were (sadly – great team) gone…

  38. After the comments Brailsford and Lefervre have made (and what Eisel has allegedly said to Lefervre) it would read as potentially just Sky and Cavendish having issues sorting out personal terms prior to an announcement rather than the rider going elsewhere.

  39. any news on SKY bikes for 2013 ? (after their deal win Pina and Kask runs out?)
    or maybe i just have to wait for the Tour, tha’ts where the big deals are done 🙂 eheh

Comments are closed.