Mark Cavendish will ride for Team Dimension Data next season the team have confirmed. Mark Renshaw will follow Cavendish from Etixx-QuickStep, while Bernhard Eisel will join forces with the Manxman again after three years apart. Cavendish has signed up for the next three seasons, keeping him at the team until 2018.
The African-registered Professional Contiental team, which has ridden under the name of MTN-Qhubeka this season, expressed interest in Cavendish as earlier as April this season but ongoing discussions with sponsors meant that the deal could only be signed this week. The move also links him up with former teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen, who joined the team last season.
“I’m super excited about becoming a part of the Team for 2016. It is a team that I have watched closely as it has grown, especially over this season and been really impressed with the spirit, strength and dynamics of the group,” Cavendish said in a statement confirming his move.
“It’s fair to say that most of the peloton has seen how incredible the team raced this year. To join it with the target of helping to win even more races with other strong, experienced household cycling names like Mark Renshaw, Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Steve Cummings and of course Bernie Eisel is going to be real special, as well as assisting the talent of the young, African riders to top level success."
“Also, for me personally, one of the biggest incentives is riding for a greater cause in the Qhubeka charity. I’m really looking forward to having a successful year on the road alongside the other guys and helping directly to get more bikes in the hands of people who need them.”
Cavendish has established himself as one of the world’s top sprinters with 26 Tour de France stages to his name alone. He has spent the past three seasons at Etixx-QuickStep but talks to renew his contract with the Belgian team failed to reach a conclusion. His arrival at the South African team will be a huge boost to their marketability and publicity, as they look to gain attention for their Qhubeka cause. It will be a major change for the team too, who will have to cope with the extra attention and a new race strategy when Cavendish is targeting sprint finishes.
“Mark Cavendish joining our Team is a huge step forward for the team as we strive to get to the next level in world cycling. To also integrate Mark Renshaw and Bernie Eisel is a game changer in terms of performance and experience, which, added to the incredible talent we already have in the team opens up many possibilities for us,” said Team Principal Doug Ryder.
“It is even more meaningful to tie that all together to achieve bigger impact for Qhubeka, the charity we ride for. Qhubeka, provides bicycles for African schoolchildren, enabling them to conquer distance every day to get to and from school.”
The team, which also works to develop young African riders, made big changes in their line-up last season, bringing on seven non-Africans in an attempt to increase their chances of a Tour de France wildcard. The made their Tour de France debut earlier this year with Stephen Cummings taking their first Grand Tour stage win in Mende. It is the first time, however, that they have brought on multiple riders in a group format such as this.
More announcements regarding rider signings are expected in the coming days.