SAINT-ÉTIENNE, France (VN) – Mark Cavendish’s future remains unclear after Patrick Lefevere confirmed last week that he had no room for the sprinter in 2023, but a move to EF Education-EasyPost could be on the cards with the American team confirming to VeloNews that very early talks have taken place.
Cavendish has talked to a number of teams in recent weeks, including Israel-Premier Tech and Ineos Grenadiers, as he looks for a spot next season and aims to break Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins.
EF-Education is set to announce the arrival of Richard Carapaz from Ineos Grenadiers in August and Jonathan Vaughters confirmed to VeloNews that he had talked with Cavendish about a possible role on the team next season.
“Listen, I like Cav and I think that he would be a great story, and interesting to have on the team but there’s certainly no contract,” Vaughters said. “Maybe Mark and I have different viewpoints on how things would work together but he’s a smart guy and I’ve actually talked to him a bunch over the last month. I like him. There could be a way of working together but as of right now the pieces don’t seem to be coming together. I’ve talked to him though.”
There are a number of stumbling blocks at present when it comes to signing the veteran sprinter, with EF still uncertain on its roster for next season and little recent experience in the way of leadout riders.
They’ve not worked with a top-level sprinter in years and signing Cavendish, even for a single season on a bonus based contract, would have to include several new signings to support him.
“If he got that Eddy Merkcx record, he’s an icon in the sport. You can always make room but there’s lots of questions like do we have the guys to lead him out. Chasing that win is not an easy thing to do,” Vaughters added.
Also read: Carapaz set to join EF Education-EasyPost
Ten years ago and Cavendish was a major thorn in Vaughters’ side. The British rider and his HTC leadout regularly beat Tyler Farrar and the Slipstream squad during the Tour de France but time heals all wounds, according to Vaughters.
“It would be really funny. The Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish rivalry, I spent a good five years of my life hating Mark Cavendish but he’s a likable guy. Tyler is a fireman now so I don’t need to worry about that any more. I can move on. I feel like my soul has healed. I wouldn’t say it’s overly serious but I’ve talked to him,” he said.
The main focus for Vaughters’ team in 2023 will be GC. Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves, Hugh Carthy, Neilson Powless and Rigoberto Uran — if he stays — would make a formidable core in the mountains of a three-week race. The team also has a crop of young talent coming through the ranks.
“We’ll have a pretty large strategic shift for our team next year, for sure. We’ll have some good new talent coming aboard. We’ve had a couple of years where we’ve had to be lean because of the pandemic and the impact that it had on the travel industry. It’s coming back really strong so next year we’re going to be able to get after it a bit more,” said Vaughters.
“We can hope. You don’t know until you’re in the race,” he said when asked if the team would fight on multiple GC fronts in grand tours.
“I don’t want the spirit of the team to shift to totally focusing on the GC, so that you forget everything else that you’re actually good at but I think we’ll have more of a GC focus than we’ve had in a bit.”