Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed he has still to reach a deal with Mark Cavendish for 2022, suggesting the Manxman "should not overestimate his market value in the euphoria of the Tour."
Speaking in his weekly column in Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab), Lefevere confirmed Fabio Jakobsen’s future role as one of Deceuninck-QuickStep’s three sprinters and revealed that Elia Viviani could also return to the team after two unsuccessful seasons at Cofidis.
Lefevere suggested he was in negotiations with Cavendish about a contract for 2022 but admitted the talks had stalled.
"At the moment I only have one sprinter under contract with Fabio for next year. That's two too few," he wrote.
"The question, of course, is what happens to Cavendish. After the Tour we had dinner in the star restaurant Boury in Roeselare, but nobody has become much wiser there.
"There was some talk about business: the sponsors suggested a campaign in which they wanted to play Mark image-wise, but he didn't think that was in line with his salary at the moment. I then suggested to enjoy the food and put the conversations about contracts and numbers in the fridge for a while.
“But the premise is simple: we want Mark to stay with the team and I think he also knows that the grass is not greener anywhere else. Only he should not overestimate his market value in the euphoria of the Tour. If everyone acts normal, we'll figure it out."
With the Belgian team losing Sam Bennett to Bora-Hansgrohe and Alvaro Hodeg moving to UAE Team Emirates for 2022, there is space in the squad for another sprinter alongside Jakobsen and – probably – Cavendish.
Moves for Peter Sagan and Pascal Ackermann had been rumoured earlier in the season, as well as a return for Viviani, who enjoyed the two best years of his career with the Belgian team in 2018 and 2019. During those two seasons, the Italian took 29 wins for the team, including eight Grand Tour stages and the European road race title.
"For the position of third sprinter, I am thinking concretely about Elia Viviani," Lefevere wrote. "At least as concrete as my budget for next year allows.
"He has had his best years with our team, but of course his price is in line with his palmarès. Viviani or a younger and therefore cheaper sprinter: that's the decision I have to make. I'm not in a rush for now."
Lefevere also talked about Jakobsen and his comeback from his career-threatening crash at last year's Tour de Pologne.
This year he made a successful return to racing, with two wins at the Tour de Wallonie and a stage win at the Vuelta a España already under his belt.
He recently extended his stay with the team for two more seasons, with Lefevere noting that the team stood by their promise to double his salary for 2021 despite Jakobsen's injury layoff.
"We decided early this season to extend Fabio's contract for another two years. Because we knew he would find his level again. He also did not want to drive for another team. It creates a bond to go through such a rehabilitation together.
"Fabio appreciates that the team – and myself, in particular – has been very correct with him. Before the crash, we had agreed that he would earn twice as much in 2021 as in 2020. The team has fully complied with that, even though the UCI regulations say you don't have to pay a rider who has been inactive for more than six months.
"I dare to think that not all my colleagues would have done the same. The contract for 2022 and 2023 was negotiated at a time when Fabio had hardly raced, but there too he is at the level of 2021."
Lefevere suggested that Jakobsen would have won even more had he had Deceuninck-QuickStep's top lead-out train at the Vuelta. Michael Mørkøv is currently racing smaller stage races in Denmark and Belgium rather than taking on another Grand Tour after guiding Mark Cavendish to four wins at the Tour and winning Madison gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I don't detract from Jasper Philipsen's merit, but I dare to say: give Fabio the lead-out that Mark Cavendish had in the Tour and he has already won three stages in the Vuelta. Our train with Bert Van Lerberghe, Zdenek Stybar and Florian Sénéchal does its best, but they do not have the experience and métier that Mørkøv does."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.