The next two weeks are ‘crunch time’ for Bernhard Eisel as he looks to secure a new contract for 2016. The Team Sky road captain is out of contract at the end of this season, having served at the British WorldTour team since 2012 but he is relaxed about his options.
At the recent RideLondon Classic the 34-year-old sat Eisel down with Cyclingnews to talk about his chances of re-signing with Team Sky, returning to a French team [he rode for FDJ from 2003 to 2006 - ed.] and the possible option of linking up with a former teammate, Mark Cavendish.
“I’m still discussing my future. The priority is to stay here [at Sky] and we’re getting close but of course there’s talks with other teams but nothing is signed and I don’t have a contract at home to sign yet. I’m not actually stressed though. I know that not much happens during the Tour de France except with the riders who are there and now it’s crunch time in the next two weeks,” Eisel told Cyclingnews.
Eisel has carved a niche for himself at Team Sky as a rider who can captain squads at both Grand Tours and Classics. He may not quite have the sprint legs of the rider who won Gent-Wevelgem back in 2010 but he remains a thoroughbred with vast peloton experience and race know-how.
“My preference would normally be to stay here. I know what I have here and to go somewhere else and start new doesn’t make it easier for myself. There’s interest from different teams and there’s other opportunities but this is more about weighing up where I want to go and what I want to do.”
Part of the puzzle Eisel must solve is whether he wants to remain directly in cycling once he hangs up his wheels. A role as directeur sportif is one potential avenue the Austrian could pursue but so too is higher education, with studies in sports management another option. The long-term future cannot be ignored once a rider moves into his thirties but Eisel also believes that his legs are still strong enough to warrant a place in a WorldTour team.
“I’m not too young anymore so I also have to think about what I want to do with my future after cycling. That’s also another option with other teams and I have to weigh it all up.”
“Never say never as a director. I have the experience but sometimes that’s not enough. I think I could be too nervous with the boys. A pain for them in the radio,” he told Cyclingnews with laugh.
“A sports director’s job is a lot of hard work, with a lot of hard work behind the scenes. I don’t know if want to do that and I’m also thinking about the idea of going back to studying, maybe somewhere abroad. It would be something in management but I’ve not decided where to specialize.”
One certainty is that Eisel is searching for a two-year deal, a one-year option simply isn’t an option at this point.
“It has to be a two-year contract. I know that I have two more years in my legs.”
One team that Eisel had discussed a future with was Trek Factory Racing. Eisel and Trek general manager, Luca Guercilena know each other from their Mapei days and Eisel’s address book is as impressive as they come when it comes to team managers and riders who have graced the sport over the last ten years.
“I know Luca really well and we talked briefly back in the Tour de Suisse but no, we had a quick chat and then we went our different ways," Eisel said.
“I just want to do the same thing, you know, like lead the young guys and teach them about cycling. I don’t have a problem with riding at the front. I’m not looking for my own chances anymore. I just want to guide the young guys like I’m doing here and enjoy the last few years. That’s my first priority, having fun [with my racing]. I don’t mind the idea of going to different races, so why not try some in Malaysia for once.”
Eisel is also keen on making sure that if he leaves Team Sky then it’s for another WorldTour team. That could mean a move to IAM or to Cofidis, should the latter step up in 2016, but it’s another French team, FDJ, where Eisel spent four years, that could also provide an option.
“There’s a French team that I’ve been talking to,” he says. A possible reunion with Marc Madiot’s men? “Maybe.”
A link-up with Mark Cavendish is another possibility according to Eisel. At that point in the interview Cavendish wheeled to the side of the Team Sky before the race sign on.
“The Cav thing is definitely an option,” Eisel said as he acknowledged Cavendish with a friendly nod.
“It’s the first time in many years that we’re both at the end of our contract at the same time. It’s an option but we’ll see. It’s harder for him because he costs a little bit more money than I do. The door is still open. Honestly, I’ve not signed anywhere but we’ll see.”
The relatively unique aspect about Eisel and his contract negotiations is that he does it all himself. He has no agent pulling the strings and talking on his behalf – a rather refreshing approach in modern day cycling.
“I do it all myself, I don’t have a manager. It’s more friendship based and you can look them in the face and you know if there’s chance or not.”
Eisel and his book of contacts should be fine for next year.