Cavendish’s closest domestique since their time together in the Team Highroad set-up, Eisel joined Sky with the Manxman last winter but has now opted to stay put rather than follow his erstwhile master to Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
“The fact that Mark Cavendish is leaving us made this one of the toughest decisions of my life, and I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t felt absolutely at home here,” Eisel said. “Mark and I have ridden together since 2007, and he was my only roommate during most of that time. I haven’t just looked after him on the bike, I also regard him as a brother, so it will be strange competing against him in the future.”
While Cavendish’s departure had been widely anticipated since the end of the summer, Eisel’s contract extension means that he is the first rider to be confirmed at Sky for 2013 since it was announced on Wednesday that all riders would have to sign an anti-doping declaration in order to remain at the squad.
Following former rider Michael Barry’s recent admission of doping during his time at US Postal and the team’s belated decision to dispense with the services of former Rabobank doctor Geert Leinders, Sky team principal Dave Brailsford told a small gathering of reporters on Wednesday that all riders and staff would have to sign a declaration confirming that they have no past or present involvement in doping.
Team Sky took the first two spots on the podium at the 2012 Tour de France through Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and Eisel said that he was pleased to be a part of the line-up in July.
“Although I haven’t had a win this season, I’ve had a really enjoyable first year with the team and have been able to contribute to some historic performances,” he said. “I’ve loved taking on a senior role in the squad. Having the chance to advise the younger guys is something I’ve really enjoyed doing, and want to continue doing that over the next three years.”
Eisel’s stand-out individual performance came at E3 Harelbeke in March, when he finished third behind Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire in a bunch finish. Winner of Gent-Wevelgem in 2010, the Austrian is hopeful that he might greater scope to pursue his own goals in 2013.
“I’m sure I’ll have more chances to get my first victory for the team, and at the same time I’ll continue doing what I am best at, which is helping other people win,” he said.