Omega Pharma make changes to provide Mark Cavendish with effective lead-out train
Mark Cavendish, Three Days of De Panne 2013, stage one
Omega Pharma-QuickStep will make changes to better support Mark Cavendish, according to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. Team boss, Patrick Lefevere said that the team needs to get serious ahead of the Grand Tours and that some riders will be let go at year-end.
The news comes after the Scheldeprijs flop on Wednesday. Cavendish went in a hot favourite after winning three times, but left with his tail between his legs. He told journalists including Cycling Weekly after the race, "Once again I was left alone in the final ... [I'm] disappointed."
Lefevere explained to the Belgian daily today, "I had the feeling that some riders weren't willing to give their all for their leader."
Cavendish took his breakthrough win in Scheldeprijs in 2007 riding for T-Mobile. Bob Stapleton built a strong sprint train around him over the years, which helped him pick up his 2008 and 2011 wins.
Riding for Sky, he skipped the race last year to welcome his new baby girl. This year, with fiancée and daughter waiting at the finish line, he wanted to celebrate her first birthday.
Martin Velits and Iljo Keisse controlled for the first part of the race. In the second half, riders like Gert Steegmans, and the tall Belgians Stijn Vandenbergh and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck were due to take over.
They were present and faded to give way to Argos-Shimano, for eventual winner Marcel Kittel, and Blanco and Garmin-Sharp. Cavendish, left alone, managed second between 24-year-old Kittel and 21-year-old Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM).
"We had a quick meeting in the team bus after the race then everyone went home," Lefevere added.
"Sometimes I think back with nostalgia to the times of Johan Museeuw, Carlo Bomans and Wilfried Peeters, when the guys were in the same hotel for three weeks during the Flemish campaign. Now [Sylvain] Chavanel is on the train home 30 minutes after the finish [in Flanders]. Or Cavendish on the plane to London 30 minutes after Scheldeprijs."
Lefevere indicated that he would make changes for Cavendish for the Grand Tours and for 2014. Riders with contracts up for renewal could be replaced by dedicated lead-out men. Others with an existing 2014 contract might be asked to leave regardless.
"The problem is that when Cavendish finally came to our team, I was already at my 30-rider limit and had no extra room to buy help. With more than 10 riders' contracts ending this year, I have options to look for a locomotive or locomotives," Lefevere continued.
"If you want to do your own thing then maybe you'd better ride for team Accent Jobs, where anyone and everyone is the leader. Maybe there are guys who are not happy because it's all about Cavendish, if so then they have to notify me. Even if they have a contract next year, I let them go.
"A team is like a business. I made a big investment hiring Mark Cavendish. I have to make this transfer pay off, and I will do that. We missed our first targets, Ghent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs. Anyway, he was pure class in Scheldeprijs to place second and he has already won seven times."
Lefevere said he looks forward to Matteo Trentin's return, possibly for the Giro d'Italia. The Italian broke his scaphoid at the end of February in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Cavendish resumes racing in the Tour of Romandy, April 23 to 28, with eyes on the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, and concerns about his team.