Team Sky still interested in sprinter Mark Cavendish
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Sky still interested in Cavendish

by Conal Andrews at 7:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

With one win already under its belt, Team Sky is planning a very strong Tour Down Under campaign and 2010 season in general.

Further ahead, the team has a strong interest in signing Mark Cavendish, who is in the final year of his contract with the HTC Columbia team. The oft-quoted goal of the team is that it will win the Tour de France with a British rider within five years; performing strongly in the race with other Britons is also a target, and so signing the ten-time stage winner would be a big plus.

“Mark Cavendish is British and this is a British team. He fits perfectly” said Team Sky’s Scott Sunderland, according to Nettavisen. However he knows that it is not automatic that the Manx Man would move from where is. “He said that he is very happy to be where he is now.”

HTC Columbia general manager Bob Stapleton has a good relationship with Cavendish and he would be determined to retain the services of the rider. Cavendish has worked closely with British Cycling in the past, however, and with many of the same people being part of the Team Sky setup – and a juicy contract potentially on offer – there is a chance that he might decide to change.

Sunderland makes it clear that Sky is interested, providing Cavendish recognises that the team has ambitions beyond the bunch sprints. “We have some long-term goals for this team, goals he also has to accept,” he explained, presumably referring to the fact that he would not have an entire Tour team built around him. “First and foremost, he should signal to us that he is interested.

“He knows us and he knows how we’d love to have him. When he has finished his contract, he must find out whether he will extend [there] or turn his focus elsewhere.”

Should Cavendish decide to get on board, it would undoubtedly bring more wins to the ProTour squad. However, as former Columbia team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen knows well, setting up the sprinter requires his other team-mates to dedicate themselves to him, and to ensure that the peloton is together at the end of a race.

Boasson Hagen is regarded as one of the top talents in the sport and is expected to rack up more and more victories as he ages. There’s clearly a chance that he could lose out if the team rides for Cavendish, but said he understands why Sky would like to sign him.

“Mark Cavendish is very high on their list, since he is from the United Kingdom. He of course wins the most races, so I suppose it is not unnatural that they want him,” he told Nettavisen. “However, I am sure we shall get good results next year even if he is not here.”

If he moves, Boasson Hagen said that it is conceivable that they could work well together again. “We got many good results together last year, and one should not overlook that it could happen if we got on the same team again, but nothing is certain.”

Sunderland feels that either way, the team will top podiums across Europe and elsewhere. “This is something that we will look at if Cavendish will,” he said. “We must respect Edvald and the rest of the riders on the team and see the new possibilities. If Cavendish joins, it’s fantastic. If he does not, I am happy with those who are here now.”

Team Sky will have the chance to chase its second win of the year this week when the Santos Tour Down Under starts tomorrow. Cancer Council Helpline Classic winner Greg Henderson and runner-up Chris Sutton will spearhead the charge.

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