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After weeks of back and forth, it seems that Mark Cavendish and Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere have finally reached an agreement.
“I read that the negotiations between Mark Cavendish and me are difficult and that the water is deep,” Lefevere wrote in his Het Nieuwsblad column. “The reality, meanwhile, is somewhat different. I’ll see Mark face-to-face next week when he’s in Belgium for the World Champs. It’s easier to talk than on the phone. We have now reached an agreement on wages and bonuses. The only point of contention is what Mark can do after his career. He would like to remain involved with our team and that is certainly negotiable for me.”
While his immediate racing future appears to be confirmed, the one remaining question is over what happens next – what will Cavendish do once he ‘hangs up his wheels’? The Manx Missile himself has some ideas.
“It is partly a financial story,” Lefevere continued. “What Mark wanted to earn this year, we could spread over two years. But anyway, he doesn’t just want to cash in on a ceremonial function. Mark wants to do something that has meaning. What exactly, I would like to let him introduce himself. In my experience, all riders today want to be performance managers, but the problem is that they often take themselves too much as the reference. What worked for you may not necessarily work for someone else.”
With 15 years of racing and winning under his belt, Cavendish is considered a valuable teammate and motivator – his inclusion in the British lineup for the World Championships road race is as team leader, a veteran rider and former world champion enlisted for his experience on and off the bike. Perhaps a more formal version of that is where his future lies with Deceuninck-QuickStep. And then there’s ‘Mark Cavendish’ the brand.
“Another possibility is that he walks alongside me, in a management position,” said Lefevere. “Mark is someone for whom doors open. He has the name, and you have to hand it to him: he can explain it too. Companies such as Science in Sport and McLaren have entered cycling through Mark. He also has excellent relationships with energy drink manufacturer Monster. In that role he can certainly be of value to our team, although I also say: my main sponsors are fixed until 2027. The secondary sponsors also for two or three years. We don’t have a lot of space there.”
Evidently, Lefevere sees some value in keeping Cavendish around, and yet he’s still compelled to cast doubt – something that will surprise no one. Neither will the news that there’s air to clear between the Deceuninck team boss and the Manx Missile. Although in fairness to all involved, no one predicted that Cavendish’s 2021 successes would so far outweigh expectations.
“This year we have not been able to sufficiently play out Mark’s image,” Lefevere explained. “He raced on a minimum contract and did not think that was part of the deal. I can hardly blame him. We will also clear the air on that next week.”