Patrick Lefevere has taken to his column in Het Nieuwsblad to announce that a deal with Mark Cavendish is close to being completed, with the Deceuninck-QuickStep manager and his star sprinter having agreed terms on wages and bonuses.
The proposed deal would last for one season, with other terms such as Cavendish’s calendar and future beyond 2022 still to be determined. There is potential for Cavendish to retire at the end of 2022 and step into a team management position, with Lefevere well aware of the clout and branding that the record-breaking sprinter brings to cycling.
A one-year extension would effectively end Lefevere’s need to find another sprinter, and would leave Fabio Jakobsen and Cavendish to lead the line next season.
“I read that the negotiations between Mark Cavendish and me are difficult and that the water is deep,” Lefevere wrote in Het Nieuwsblad.
“The reality, meanwhile, is somewhat different. I will see Mark face-to-face next week when he is in Belgium for the World Championshps. It's easier to talk than on the phone. We have now reached an agreement on wages and bonuses. The only point of contention is what Mark can do after his career. He would like to remain involved with our team and that is certainly negotiable for me.”
Lefevere, with the financial backing of Specialized in 2021, effectively salvaged Cavendish’s career after it looked as though the veteran sprinter was on his way out of the sport. Several years of illnesses and crashes had seen his win rate dry up but a one-year deal was struck. The agreement paid off with Cavendish having a stunning Tour de France, taking four stage wins and the green jersey to draw himself level with Eddy Merckx in the all-time stage win tally on 34.
In recent weeks Lefevere has used the press to disclose elements of the contract negotiations, at one point stating: "I respect Mark Cavendish. We saved his skin. We gave him all the tools. He took the challenge and he did it. And now it begins. Now he thinks it is time to cash in again."
It’s still not clear whether Cavendish has been promised a Tour de France spot in 2022, with reports that Lefevere and the sprinter were still at odd on that part of the deal. In his Saturday column, Lefevere would not add any developments to that part of the deal, but he did open up about Cavendish’s potential role after he hung up his wheels.
“It is partly a financial story. What Mark wanted to earn this year, we could spread over two years. But anyway, he doesn't just want to 'cash' in a ceremonial function. Mark wants to do something that has meaning. What exactly, I would like to let him introduce himself. In my experience, all riders today want to become Performance Managers, but the problem is that they often take themselves too much as the reference. What worked for you may not necessarily work for someone else,” Lefevere wrote.
“Another possibility is that he walks with me in a management position. Mark is someone for whom doors open. He has the name and you have to give it to him: he can explain it too. Companies such as Science in Sport and McLaren have entered cycling through Mark. He also has excellent relationships with energy drink manufacturer Monster. In that role he can certainly be of value to our team, although I also say: my main sponsors are fixed until 2027. The secondary sponsors also for two or three years. We don't have a lot of space there.
“This year we have not been able to sufficiently play out Mark's image. He raced on a minimum contract and did not think that was part of the deal. Which I can hardly blame him for. We will also clear the air on that next week.”