Cycling

Mark Cavendish ‘confirmed’ as leader of a team that may not exist in two weeks

It’s a story as old as professional cycling itself: the team principal announces an ambitious new project, star names are recruited, clouds of uncertainty begin to gather over the team’s proposed finances, the team goes bankrupt.

The season-closing drama surrounding the rumored 2023 fate of Mark Cavendish, the French outfit until now known as B&B Hôtels-KTM, has had more twists than an M. Night Shyamalan plot.

And, according to the squad’s technical director, Jérôme Pineau, we are fast approaching the final scene. Whether or not it will be a happy ending before the credits roll, however, remains to be seen.

Cavendish, 37, who was left out of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Tour de France team this year while he was one win shy of the race’s record for all-time stage wins, has been linked with a switch to Pineau’s team since September, amid rumors that the second-tier French squad was to receive a substantial increase in funding from an unknown sponsor, while also being associated with the city of Paris.


[📷: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com]

However, after the last-minute cancellation of what was expected to be the big reveal of the revamped team at the end of October, due to the absence of some of the “major stakeholders” of the project (in other words, the sponsors who supply the funds) – Conflicting reports have surfaced as to whether the team will continue in any form next season.

A last-minute merger with Israel Premier-Tech has been touted, while a spokesman was forced last week to deny that the riders who signed on to the new women’s team, which will be led by French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, they were told to look for alternative employment opportunities. by 2023.

> The team that is rumored to sign Mark Cavendish cancels the press conference due to the “absence of certain important players”

But despite the team missing yesterday’s UCI registration deadline, the embattled Pineau, a former professional who founded the B&B Hôtels team in 2018, remains optimistic that a sponsor can be secured, saying today to the French press that expects “concrete answers” by the end. of this month

Speaking to RMC Sport and Le Télégramme, Pineau said: “Clearly we are in a waiting situation. I had many appointments with many companies. Now we are waiting for it to be finished, with the ambition of setting up a men’s team but also a high-level women’s team and an academy. We have warned the national and international authorities that we need a delay because the time of the companies involved requires it.

“I am waiting for answers, I have five very serious leads. I expect definitive answers on November 21, 28 and 29. We are ready to shoot. I don’t control the time, nor the quantities… The brokers’ contracts are ready. B&B Hôtels has already made a new bet. We still have the arrival of one last big sponsor who takes his time to decide.

“I hope they are positive about the project in general, but I don’t rule out a downward revision. Perhaps asking my athletes to be more reasonable in 2023 before thinking big. The current budget is not enough to expect to evolve to the level we expect. If necessary, we will have to make decisions.”


Pierre Rolland of B&B Hotels descends from Mont Ventoux, Tour de France 2021 (Emma Wilcock/SWpix.com)

[📷:Emma Wilcock/SWpix.com]

The former Quick Step driver continued: “I remain optimistic, but the future of the team is under threat. I will believe it until the last minute of the last day. I said, I’m waiting for answers. And if a business leader wants to come with us, we won’t slam the door. It will be the beginning of something else or the end of everything. But I rule out pulling the curtain.”

And what about Cavendish? Well, despite all the uncertainty surrounding his embattled team, Pineau remains convinced that the 34-time Tour de France stage winner is part of the team’s plans to “go higher.”

“If I didn’t believe in this project, I would have already signed elsewhere,” said the 42-year-old Frenchman. “I cannot hide that he is part of this project… he wants to be with us. He wants him to be with us, but today I have to say that he is not part of the team.

So, clear as mud then.

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