Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has voiced his opposition to Mark Cavendish’s wish to return to track racing, pointing out that the Manxman is paid by the team to earn results on the road.
Cavendish is understood to be considering racing on the track at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and as part of that process, he took part in the International Belgian Open in Ghent in September in order to score the qualifying points necessary to compete in this season’s UCI Track World Cup.
The Manxman was also rumoured to be riding the Ghent Six in the company of teammate Iljo Keisse, but that plan did not meet with Lefevere’s approval when it was discussed in a meeting in Paris in October.
“We pay him to perform well on the road and he must concentrate fully on that,” Lefevere told Het Nieuwsblad. “Two riders crashed out on the first night of the Ghent Six. What if Mark had been one of them? What’s more, racing on the track makes preparing for next season more complex. I can tolerate the track with Keisse and [Niki] Terpstra, but not with Cavendish. You can never say never, but this year it didn’t happen and it won’t happen next year either.”
Lefevere’s concerns about Cavendish’s foray onto the track are both sporting and commercial. If Cavendish raced for Britain at the track World Cup and world championships, for instance, he would not be aboard a Specialized-branded bike.
“Of course, I’d rather not see Mark riding on a black bike,” Lefevere said, adding: “As long as we pay Mark, I don’t want him on the track. He has enough time to do it with another team.”
Cavendish has two years remaining on his current contract with Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and he enjoyed a solid debut campaign with the squad, claiming the points classification at the Giro d’Italia, the British road race title and two stages at the Tour de France.
His final haul of 19 wins did not completely satisfy Lefevere, however, at least according to Ghent Six organiser Patrick Sercu, who had made entreaties to have Cavendish ride in his event.
“Cavendish wanted to ride in the Ghent Six this year. Money wasn’t the stumbling block, but the consent of his team, which he didn’t have,” Sercu told Het Nieuwsblad. “I called Lefevere and he said that he expected better performances from Cavendish last season.”