Behind every star rider is the manufacturer that produces the machine they ride to glory, and few bike company/rider relationships have been written about more than that between Mark Cavendish and Specialized.
After one season on Pinarello and Team Sky, Cavendish will now return to the American company which produced his Tour de France stage winning chariots in 2010 and 2011 when he joins Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2013 for three full seasons.
The company has had a history of shifting its alliance with teams in order to keep specific riders on its brand: after 2009, it dropped QuickStep in order to add Cavendish's HTC-Highroad team to its portfolio. At the time it already supported the Astana team of Alberto Contador as well as Saxo Bank and Andy Schleck.
Each time when Cavendish was looking to leave his team: in 2011, Highroad, and earlier this year Sky, it was heavily rumoured that the company would either try to usurp Pinarello on Team Sky or buy out Cavendish to bring him to QuickStep.
Specialized founder and CEO Mike Sinyard would not comment on the specifics but said that Specialized was involved in bringing Cavendish to the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, and said he and the company are "very honored to work with him again".
"When we worked with him in the past he was really good, he gave great product feedback and challenged us in a good way. He's got a lot of energy and a lot of ideas, and personally we relate very much to Mark. It's a big honor to have Mark choose to come back to Specialized."
Sinyard said that in the past, Cavendish worked closely with his product development team to help build race-winning machines such as the Venge, and he expects no less in the future relationship.
"We are look forward to really going out there and be challenged in a great way to make the product to help him win," Sinyard said.
The announcement comes on the heels of much less exciting news for Sinyard, when the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team announced it had terminated the contract of Levi Leipheimer, who was suspended for six months for admitting to past doping while testifying for the USADA case against Lance Armstrong.
Even though Cavendish chose to head to Sky for the 2012 season, Sinyard's company got behind the growing Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, helping to smooth a deal for the team to bring in Leipheimer after he was not renewed with RadioShack.
It has since emerged that RadioShack would not re-sign Leipheimer because he had testified to the federal grand jury in its investigation of Lance Armstrong.
Sinyard said he had respect for Leipheimer's admissions, but also respected the decision of the team in letting him go.
"Any one who knows Levi knows he's one of the most genuine, real people around. He's a great ambassador for the sport.
"I understand where the team is coming from, and I respect their decision, but at the same time I feel very sad that that happened."
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