Omega Pharma-Quick Step will provide sprinter Mark Cavendish with support “as needed” to win stages and embark on another green jersey bid at the Tour de France says sports director Brian Holm.
Cavendish this week confirmed a three-year contract with the Belgian squad – after negotiating an early release from Sky – that will see he and Holm reunite in 2013 following a season working for different teams.
“After he has won 23 stages of the Tour de France it would be silly not to give him support as needed,” Holm told Cycling Weekly.
Holm has also not ruled out the possibility of another former HTC-Highroad colleague in team manager Rolf Aldag returning full-time to the sport and maybe joining Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
The impetus for Cavendish’s early exit from Sky came at the Tour this year where his stage and green jersey ambitions were second to general classification success with team-mates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome finishing first and second, respectively.
But that won’t be the case for the 27 year old year next year.
Holm says double time trial world champion Tony Martin is a few years away from being a podium contender and is likely to focus on time trials and shorter stage races in the interim. The team does not seem to have an interest in recruiting any other possible Tour winners in the near future either.
“What is important for Cav is we are not going to go for the GC. We don’t have anybody who can win the GC,” Holm said.
“That means we have to take the stages one by one and riders consider them as single day races and say, ‘Okay, what can we do here? That stage is maybe for Niki Terpstra, for (Sylvain) Chavanel. Those days we can create a bunch sprint and other days they’re probably going to be too heavy for Mark, he’s going to relax, go with the grupetto, then (Tom) Boonen he’s going to go for his win.'”
Boonen was a leader at Omega Pharma-Quick Step this season and excelled in the classics winning E3, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The 32 year old skipped the Tour to prepare for the Olympic Games road race but is no stranger to success there having won six stages as well as the green jersey in 2007. Holm says the Belgian, who is again set to focus on the classics next year, was open to Cavendish joining the fold.
“(Sports director) Wilfried Peters and (team boss) Patrick Lefevere spoke to Boonen,” Holm said.
“I mean they have to speak to Boonen first and what he thought about it. You would just not sign another superstar. He has to agree also so you’re not going to end up with a problem.”
Holm named Martin as well as Peter Velits, Bert Grabsch, Gert Steegmans, Nikolas Maes as well as Britain’s Andy Fenn among riders capable of comprising a strong sprint train for Cavendish.
The former world champion won three stages at the Tour this year but the number was short of the previous average of five that he achieved with a team fully dedicated to his aims.
“He could win five, six again, he could win the green jersey but with cycling he could also break a collarbone on stage one,” Holm said.
“Normally Cavendish he’s going to win three to six stages but I would never underestimate (Marcel) Kittel, he’s going to be back, (John) Degenkolb, (Andre) Greipel, even (Peter) Sagan.
“Cav doesn’t like to hear it but of course Greipel is going to beat him again. That’s cycling, we’re not going to win each stage for sure not. But he’s going to win another two, three, four, five years he’s going to win stages.”
Cavendish’s arrival is set to alter the direction the team takes at the Tour. The squad had this year hoped to see Martin in the yellow jersey for a stint but that evaporated when the German punctured in the prologue and a day later crashed and fractured his hand.
“This year we did have a big plan at the Tour,” Holm said.
“We put everything in Tony. Our plan was to take the yellow jersey and have it for nine days and then go for the middle stages with Chavanel and so on.”
It’s not clear whether Cavendish will be able to continue working with Great Britain and Sky race coach Rod Ellingworth, who has been an influential figure throughout his career. Holm hopes the duo can continue their professional partnership but added the Manxman will also have to work with team trainers. The Dane is looking forward to working with the 2011 green jersey winner again in what he described as a family-orientated environment.