Mark Cavendish has expressed his disappointed with the news that his HTC-Highroad team will cease to operate come the end of the season. The Isle of Man sprinter was already linked with a transfer with his contract ending this year and a number of suitors making approaches.
The news of the team’s demise was confirmed on Thursday, bringing an end to a team that had won over 480 races in its brief but prolific history.
“I am obviously very disappointed that HTC Highroad will no longer be a team at the end of this season,” Cavendish posted on his official website.
“I am hugely indebted and incredibly grateful to my teammates and all the staff for their support over the last 5 years and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together.”
Cavendish signed for Telekom as a fully fledged professional in 2007 and the squad became as Highroad within a year after Telekom abruptly ended their sponsorship. It was the following year when Cavendish caught the sport’s eye with a breakthrough win at Scheldeprijs but within a month he had gone from rough diamond to pure gold, wining two stages of the Giro and four at the Tour de France. Stapleton looked to secure his services with a new contract after the Tour and Cavendish signed a deal that ran until 2010, with an option of a third year.
More success, primarily in grand tours, followed but in 2010 cracks appeared to surface between the rider and the team’s management. The Manxman told the press at the Commonwealth Games that he was frustrated by the team’s inability or unwillingness to offer him a new contract, despite winning multiple stages in the Tour that year.
He told the press: “I’ve got great family, great friends, great teammates. It’s nice. People around me appreciate when it’s like that. I’m not sure if my team does. Not my team as a whole, but the manager. I’ve not been offered a new contract yet - I don’t know why that is.”
“I’m committed to a contract I signed a few years ago, [but] there’s been no goodwill, no bonuses, nothing. I feel kind of abused for what I’ve achieved.”
Following the Games Cavendish turned up the ratchet to new levels pointing the figure squarely at the team’s hierarchy for failing to secure more funds.
“There are a couple of people whose job it is to get new sponsors and it’s frustrating when they can’t and we suffer for it. I’m just frustrated because I’ve been massively underpaid this year and next because for some reason we can’t get more sponsors,” Cavendish told Britain’s Observer newspaper following the Commonwealth Games.
Speculation mounted within the press that the relationship between Stapleton and Cavendish had become strained during the last 18 months. However part of the issue may have lay in the fact that Cavendish is rumoured to have thought that the optional third year on his contract was negotiable between him and his team. However the option and power lay solely with Stapleton.
In June the Daily Mail claimed that Cavendish was set to sign a deal with Team Sky for £1.5 million a year, doubling his current salary. Both rider and HTC dismissed the claims and during this year’s Tour Stapleton sat down with his leader to explore the possibilities of Cavendish staying with the team in the hope his name would help convince potential new sponsors to back the team. However any talks they had came to nought and Cavendish crucially revealed last week – before news of HTC’s demise- that he had already decided on his future for 2012.
He reaffirmed those sentiments on his website.
“A number of teams have expressed interest in me riding for them in 2012. I have now made a decision I am happy with and will be in a position to discuss my intentions once everything has been finalised.”