Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere has indicated that Mark Cavendish will not ride the Tour de France if he stays with the team next year, and has publicly suggested the Manxman is overestimating his value during contract negotiations.
Reports of Lefevere and Cavendish not seeing eye-to-eye on the terms for a new deal emerged earlier this week, and now Lefevere has given an interview on the matter to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
"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."
Cavendish's storied career did indeed appear to be coming to a close at the end of 2020 but, after joining his former team on a low salary funded by a personal sponsor, he has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence, winning four stages of the Tour de France.
Lefevere revealed that it was in France that Cavendish began to voice his desire to continue his career beyond the end of 2021 and confirmed that he had tabled an offer for a one-year extension. However, Cavendish was said to be looking for a longer-term and more lucrative deal.
"Will he do the same again? That seems unlikely to me," Lefevere said of Cavendish's Tour de France success.
"And then the next discussion begins, how much he should earn next year. That's a very difficult one, even for me. I can hardly give someone who wins four stages in the Tour and the green jersey, four stages in the Tour of Turkey and a stage in the Tour of Belgium the same wage as this year. Mark Cavendish has sky-high expectations in that regard and I'm very realistic. That's a difficult marriage.
"He's now starting to talk to me about his image. He says: 'with my image I am worth so much'. I say: 'your image in London is different from your image in West Flanders, with all due respect'. None of my West-Flemish sponsors are going to make amends to pay Mark Cavendish a higher wage for his image."
Another sticking point concerns Cavendish's 2022 race programmes. After his success at the Tour, where he drew level with Eddy Merckx's record of 34 stage wins, Cavendish is understandably keen to return next year to try and break the record. However, Fabio Jakobsen has made his own stirring comeback from a life-threatening crash and is considered the long-term sprint leader at the team.
"That's another thing. Mark always said the same thing: 'Next year it's up to Fabio, he's the fastest in the world, he's young, he has to go to the Tour'. Until he has now won four stages himself and has equaled Merckx's record," Lefevere said.
"Now I feel that he wants to go to the Tour again next year. But I will not go to the Tour with two sprinters next year. Next year Fabio Jakobsen will be our man for the Tour. I understand him: imagine if he can win one more in the Tour, then Cavendish will go down in history. But should I take the risk of sacrificing someone who might be faster than Mark? For a record which is essentially of no use to us as a team. And then, if he breaks the record, he might ask me for a bonus too."
Lefevere confirmed that the offer he has made to Cavendish is based largely on bonus payments for race but also revealed that the 36-year-old was eyeing up a position on the team staff after he hangs up his wheels.
"Then it starts: what are we going to do with him? Many riders become performance coaches based on their experience, but training is also needed. He also wants to walk next to me, learn the trade, be a PR man. I say: You're out of luck, I signed with my main sponsors until 2027, what are you going to teach me?"
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