Monday, 3 October 2011

Cav to announce 2012 team...?

(© Mogens Engelund CC3.0)
Are we about to finally find out with which team new World Champion Mark Cavendish will be riding in 2012 following the unfortunate demise of HTC-Highroad? Rumours are circulating that we'll be enlightened at some point in the very near future, following Team Sky's conformation that whilst they have established an "oral contract," they do not have a signed contract with the rider on Tuesday morning (4th October).

For several weeks now, the greater part of the cycling world has considered it all but a foregone conclusion that he'll be going to Team Sky. However, some of those rumours this morning suggest otherwise, hinting that it could be Quick-Step who will be merging with Omega Pharma-Lotto to form Omega Pharma Quick-Step in the new year. The Belgian Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper carries quotes it arrtibutes to an anonymous Sky employee who says that "recently, we're not so certain that he'll ride for us next year. Apparently, a few things have changed since he became World Champion in Copenhagen."

One of those factors would be likely to be Quick-Step's recent decision to begin using Specialized bikes, which Mark rode so successfully with Highroad, rather than Eddy Merckx machines - Sky will remain with Pinarello until at least the end of the current three-year contract between the team and supplier. While it might at first seem that Cav is the reason for the change in supplier rather than vice-versa - manufacturers being well aware of the exposure they receive from high-profile riders, thus driving Specialized to cut the team a good deal in order to keep Cav aboard their bikes - respected blogger Inrng notes that a previous press release announcing the new deal on Specialized's website has mysteriously vanished, suggesting that they plan to re-announce it with more of a fanfare if Cav is indeed now onboard.

Were this to be the case, it would come as blessed relief to other teams - a Sky with a Missile flying within it would be an all but unstoppable force with the potential to dominate Grand Tours for the next few years; Omega Pharma Quick-Step, as a new team with several riders who have not worked together, would likely be weaker than the tried, tested and entrenched Sky line-up, and as such would be seen as more manageable even with Cav among the ranks.

Lefevre is either ignoring the rumours or
keeping his cards close to his chest
(© McSmit CC3.0)
Quick-Step currently has a full roster, meaning that one rider would have to be ejected to make room for the Manx sprinter. That could mean a costly breach of contract if nobody wants to go voluntarily, but it's a price the team might consider worth paying in order to secure him - manager Patrick Lefevre seems keen to scotch the rumours, though: "Will Cavendish next year be in my cycling team?" says the Belgian ex-professional. "I wish - but I have thirty riders under contract.”

Later in the day, news broke that Davide Malacarne would be leaving Quick-Step for Europcar - thus solving the 30 rider problem if the rumours turn out to be true.

Meanwhile, equally unconfirmed rumours stemming from a report in the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper claim that Joost Posthuma, one of the Leopard Trek riders that have fallen prey to the Leopard-RadioShack union, may be about to announce a new contract with GreenEDGE. The Australian team, formed in January this year, is  almost certain to gain a UCI World Tour licence for 2012 - allowing them to race in the  Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in addition to the other 24 races in the series.

The world awaits with baited breath...

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