Christmas is coming and we are edging ever closer to the start of the new season at the Tour Down Under. Teams and riders are drawing up plans for 2023 and getting back into the swing of training.
The professional cycling transfer window rumbles on as teams complete their roster for 2023 but sadly the B7B Hotels debacle means Mark Cavendish has to confirm if and where he will race in 2023. The Manxman, former world champion and 34-time Tour de France stage winner , is the last star name in the peloton yet to confirm his future.
B&B Hotels-KTM had been all-but-confirmed as his destination for 2023, but with the team looking back at a failed sponsor search, they looked unlikely to even exist next season.
With that in mind, and time running out as teams around the peloton finalize their 2023 rosters, cycling news has taken a look at the best candidates for Cavendish’s signature.
Rumors of Cavendish making a move to the French ProTeam had been circulating since the summer, and as the months of the winter transfer window have dragged on, the move only seemed more and more like a done deal.
However the team’s future has unraveled slowly over the past two months as team boss Jérôme Pineau has fought a losing battle to find new sponsors to boost his budget and sign Cavendish and a solid leadout train.
With last week’s news that Pineau told the team’s riders and staff that they are free to seek deals elsewhere, the certainty that Cavendish would line up for the Breton squad has now evaporated.
Cees Bol and Ramon Sinkeldam (who has now signed for Alpecin-Deceuninck) were rumored to be signing along with Cavendish as the Manxman’s lead-out train. However, unless Pineau can come up with the latest of last-minute sponsor deals, this move looks to be dead in the water.
Part of Pineau’s ever-desperate attempts to save his team reportedly (denied by Pineau) included the Frenchman seeking a merger deal with Israel-Premier Tech, who are set to be relegated from the WorldTour to ProTeam level next year.
The Israeli team struggled mightily in 2022, scoring two big wins at the Tour de France but getting little out of their big-name signings such as Jakob Fuglsang, Giacomo Nizzolo, and Chris Froome.
Israel Premier Tech have long looked a logical landing destination for Cavendish, even if they won’t be racing at the sport’s top level next year. Team co-owner, billionaire Sylvan Adams, isn’t afraid to splash money on star names even if they’re heading towards the twilight of their careers.
They’ll be among the top candidates for a Tour de France wildcard spot next season, something that will surely be set in stone should Cavendish sign, while the team also has a readymade lead-out train for him.
There’s been nothing concrete to link the two parties yet, though this move looks to make the most sense.
The Spanish team is an odd fit for Cavendish given that their roster is overwhelmingly aimed towards Grand Tours and general classification riding. The team hasn’t often hired a top-level sprinter, but Fernando Gaviria has signed up following a tough couple of seasons at UAE Team Emirates.
Those factors didn’t stop La Gazzetta dello Sport from linking Cavendish to a Movistar switch next year, though, with the sprinter’s friendship with directeur sportif Max Sciandri seemingly the main focus of the report.
Movistar were swift to shut down any rumors of a Cavendish signing, taking to Twitter to “kindly remind everyone” that they had already confirmed their full squad of 30 riders for 2023. This simply isn’t happening.
A return to Britain’s only WorldTour squad? Cavendish spent a year at the team a decade ago, capturing three Tour de France stage wins as Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome scored a one-two in Paris, surely the peak of the modern British cycling boom years.
Suggestions of a move back to Ineos seem very far fetched, however. In recent seasons, the team has turned more and more towards youth, with next year’s roster including 15 riders aged 25 or younger. Considering this, signing a 37-year-old rider seems an unlikely option.
The team does already employ a sprinter in the shape of Elia Viviani, though the Italian hardly enjoyed a vintage year. Elsewhere, their Grand Tour squad is in flux, with Geraint Thomas possibly riding his last season and nobody else looking ready to challenge the likes of Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar next July.
In theory, that lack of a ‘Sky train’ and clear-cut Tour winner could mean space for a sprinter. It would represent a huge change of plans for Ineos, though, and so a Cavendish comeback would be very unlikely. Yet it could, in theory, justify signing Cavendish for a final Swansong season.
Aside from Israel-Premier Tech, there are few – if any – other contenders for Cavendish’s signature among cycling’s second division.
Lotto Dstny are set with Caleb Ewan and Arnaud De Lie, while the clutch of teams from Spain, Italy, Belgium and further afield wouldn’t be able to afford his salary even if they could guarantee a Tour de France wildcard.
Among the 2023 WorldTour teams, seven are at their full roster of 30 for next year, including EF Education-EasyPost, Astana Qazaqstan, and BikeExchange-Jayco, while the rest all have between one and three spaces yet to be confirmed.
Some of those teams – Soudal-QuickStep, Groupama-FDJ, UAE Team Emirates, Jumbo-Visma among them – make very little sense as far as a Cavendish transfer goes.
A few of the rest are somewhat more plausible options. Bahrain Victorious are at 27 confirmed riders for next year and, despite Phil Bauhaus enjoying a career-best season with two WorldTour wins, lack a star sprinter.
Cavendish did spend 2020 with the team, though with his former mentor Rod Ellingworth (now at Ineos) no longer on board there, a reunion looks unlikely.
Uno-X are chasing a Tour de France wild card place but have never made a move for CAvendish have signed Norwegian Alexander Kristoff.
There is one last team which could be a good candidate, however…
Finally, we come to another French squad in Arkéa-Samsic. Of course, the team has a lead sprinter in Nacer Bouhanni, though he hasn’t won a WorldTour race in four years and has only raced the Tour de France once in that time.
The departure of Nairo Quintana, the squad’s GC leader and biggest star, leaves a large gap in the roster for 2023, and you’d suspect a chunk of their budget is also freed up by him moving on.
They look set to move up to the WorldTour for next season and thus will offer a guaranteed Tour de France place, not that they’d be likely to miss out on a wildcard in any case. There’d be no real problem with fitting Cavendish in an eight-man squad either, with the likes of Warren Barguil and Clément Champoussin able to do their thing without much support.
With 28 riders confirmed for 2023, there are still two spots open for next year, while David Dekker, Hugo Hofstetter, Amaury Capiot and Briton Dan McLay resemble a ready-made lead-out train.
There are no firm links to Cavendish, but on the face of it, a move to Arkéa makes sense for several reasons.