QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere has put final contract negotiations with Mark Cavendish on hold, saying "other things take precedence now" as the Manxman recovers from a high-speed crash on the final day of the Ghent Six on Sunday.
Cavendish crashed hard after a rider slipped on some water and sparked a high-speed ripple through the group of riders contesting the final Madison. Cavendish suffered two broken ribs and a collapsed lung and was taken to the ICU at Ghent Hospital.
Cavendish was due to meet with Lefevere on Monday at the team's service course headquarters in Wevelgem to thrash out the final details of a one-year contract for the 2022 season and sign a deal but Lefevere prefers Cavendish rest up and recover before worrying about his new contract.
"You don't ask an injured person to come and sign a contract, do you? That should be the last of his worries," Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws.
"That contract is not going to disappear. It's been dragging on for so long that a few extra weeks won't make any difference."
Mark Cavendish: it was either Patrick Lefevere and Deceuninck-QuickStep or I stopped racing
Lefevere: I’ve reached an agreement on wages and bonuses with Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish exits Ghent Six on stretcher after crash in Madison
Mark Cavendish to remain in hospital for 'a couple of nights' after Ghent Six crash
"Other things take precedence now. Fortunately, there is nothing injured in his femur or his collarbone," he told Het Nieuwsblad.
"Mark's new contract is ready. It won't happen one day soon but I'd like to see it done once he's fully recovered. He always promised me he wouldn't run away."
Cavendish won four stages at the Tour de France and the green jersey after turning his career around at Deceuninck-QuickStep in 2021. He had been close to quitting the sport in 2020 after battling Epstein-Barr syndrome and depression but a return to the Belgian team reignited his career.
Contract negotiations with Lefevere have been drawn out but he will stay with the team in 2022 when it will be known as QuickStep-AlphaVinyl.
Lefevere said in September that they had reached an agreement on wages and bonuses but they remained stuck on Cavendish's desire to transition into management after possible retirement at the end of the 2022 season.
"Mark Cavendish thinks his image is valuable, but I also think of the image of my team," Lefevere said. "When I ask him what he wants to do, he says he wants to watch me and learn. But do I have to pay someone to learn?"
It seems that a deal was agreed but Cavendish’s crash has delayed putting pen to paper.
"I'm not going to drop Mark. I won't let him choke. We are his team and we take care of him," Lefevere told Het Laaste Nieuws, explaining how he offered to help Cavendish when he eventually leaves the Ghent hospital.
"Peta (Cavendish's wife) was here yesterday with two cars. I wanted to send Jo Planckaert to England, but she said it wasn't necessary. She drove home in her own car and will come back by train and take Mark home. We have agreed that we will contact him again when he has recovered somewhat."
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