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Mark Cavendish speaks to the media at a pre-Tour of Britain press conference.
Sprinter indicates that he will seek Sky exit
Speaking at a pre-Tour of Britain press conference in Ipswich, Cavendish said that he will discuss his future with team principal Dave Brailsford over the coming days.
Cyclingnews understands that Cavendish and his manager Simon Bayliff of the Wasserman Media Group will meet Brailsford on Sunday night, with the intention of agreeing an amicable separation.
"It's like a long-distance relationship. Everything's great but you live apart and it can't really work out. You want to be friends and you'd rather the best thing happened so that you can stay close," Cavendish said.
He added: "We obviously had ambitions that can't work out. The Tour de France is the hardest sporting event in the world. When you realize that you can't go in with a double-pronged attack…that maybe became apparent at the Tour. I was incredibly proud to be part of the British team that won the yellow jersey with a British rider [Bradley Wiggins]. That was a big thing in my career. Hopefully we can find an amicable solution."
While it has become apparent over recent weeks that Cavendish's goals are incompatible with Sky's, talks between the two parties have been slow to commence since the Tour de France. Over the past fortnight, sources say, Cavendish has grown increasingly impatient, not that it was obvious in Ipswich on Saturday. Team Sky principal, Dave Brailsford, meanwhile, has sought to delay discussions until his return from a two-week holiday in Majorca this week.
Adding to Cavendish's agitation are murmurs that Brailsford and Sky expect a substantial payment to release him from the contract due to expire at the end of 2014. The BBC reported early this week that the fee could be one million pounds. Sky consider the "industry standard" in these cases to be an even bigger slice of the wages still due to the rider, but may be willing to compromise, given what Brailsford has said about not wishing to hinder Cavendish's future development.
That is clearly Cavendish's hope. "I've seen some things about a release fee, but I don't think Dave would do that," he said tonight. "I've known Dave since I was fourteen years old. He's seen me grow, I've seen him grow and lead the most successful team in cycling. I hope that's just speculation."
Cavendish also hinted today that, should Brailsford object, he and his manager will argue that a "transfer fee" is only applicable when one team is trying to "buy" the rider from an unwilling seller, as was the case when Sky lured Bradley Wiggins from Garmin in 2009. In this instance, both Cavendish and Sky stand to gain from his departure: Cavendish in terms of manpower and status at another team, Sky in the millions disappearing off their wage bill – money which can be spent on their bid for overall honours in all three major Tours.
"It's a different situation [from when Sky bought out Wiggins]," Cavendish stressed.
A separate concern for the Manxman is that Brailsford hopes to keep his most loyal domestique, Bernhard Eisel, at Sky. The Austrian excelled in the Tour de France and is contracted to ride for the British team next year. Brailsford is also keen to retain the services of Aldis Cirulis, the Latvian soigneur that Cavendish brought with him from HTC-Highroad to Sky.
Like Cavendish, Sky are confident of coming to a speedy and amicable agreement, but there is clearly work to be done. Meanwhile, the teams vying for the world champion's signature tap their fingers. Omega Pharma-QuickStep remains his most likely destination. Sources in Belgium claim that provisional terms have already been agreed.
Whatever the outcome, given what we know, Cavendish‘s last two weeks in the world champion's jersey could be among the most important of his career. Tomorrow night he could have two reasons for cheer: victory in a sprinter-friendly first stage of the Tour of Britain and the freedom he clearly craves.