Mark Cavendish is on the point of signing for the South African team Dimension Data, which has raced this season under the MTN-Qubeka banner, with a strong chance that the Manx sprinter’s arrival will be confirmed on Tuesday.
Cavendish, who has won 26 stages in the Tour de France and the 2011 world road championship, has spent three years racing for the Belgian Etixx-Quick Step team but is out of contract at the end of this season.
Senior personnel at MTN were not available for comment on Monday night, but Cavendish is understood to be bringing five people with him as part of the deal. His chief lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, is also out of contract with Etixx while the Austrian Bernhard Eisel, who orchestrated Cavendish’s lead-out train in his most productive years at the HTC team, was confirmed on Monday as leaving Team Sky.
Another key person who has been linked to the deal is the directeur sportif, Brian Holm, who was with Cavendish at HTC and has been with him at Etixx. A carer – or soigneur in old-school cycling parlance – and a second directeur sportif are also likely to move.
The clincher appears to have been when the team attracted Deloitte as a sponsor for 2016 to join Dimension Data, as Cavendish’s arrival was known to have been conditional on additional funding being available. The arrival of the largest professional services firm in the world as a backer is a major development for cycling, where blue-chip sponsors are relatively rare.
Initial contact between Cavendish and the team came at the Tour de France but the deal has gained impetus only in recent weeks and appears to have been sealed last week. Cavendish’s agent Simon Bailiff told the Guardian in early September that MTN were one of three teams in the frame, the other two being Trek Factory Racing and Tinkoff-Saxo.
Cavendish has enjoyed a successful season, winning a stage in the Tour de France and taking 12 other races including the Belgian one-dayer Kuurne-Brussels- Kuurne, but he called a halt to his season after injuring a shoulder in a crash in the Tour of Britain. A ride at the Rio Olympics on the track is on his possible target list for 2016.
This article was written by William Fotheringham, for theguardian.com on Monday 28th September 2015 20.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010