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HTC-Highroad says it will fight to keep Cavendish

TOBEL-TAGERSCHEN, Switzerland (AFP) - American cycling team HTC-Highroad officials say they still hope to keep top British sprinter Mark Cavendish on board as reports of his move to Team Sky resurfaced Thursday.

TOBEL-TAGERSCHEN, Switzerland (AFP) – American cycling team HTC-Highroad officials say they still hope to keep top British sprinter Mark Cavendish on board as reports of his move to Team Sky resurfaced Thursday.

A report in London’s Daily Mail claimed that the Isle of Man rider, who has 15 stage wins from the Tour de France, will sign a deal worth £1.5 million ($2.4 million) to start for Team Sky in 2012.

Cavendish has in the past been linked to British outfit Team Sky and his contract with HTC-Highroad expires at the end of the year.

Cavendish is currently competing at the Tour of Switzerland this week, but refused to make any comment at the start of the sixth stage here Thursday.

HTC-Highroad sporting director Allan Peiper said however he hoped that any interested parties would respect the August 1 inter-season negotiating period put in place by the UCI.

The Australian added that HTC-Highroad, whose victory count over the past years is unrivalled in the peloton, would do their best to keep hold of the Manxman.

“There’s nothing we can say, it’s heresay at the moment,” Peiper told AFP when asked about the Cavendish reports.

“As far as I know it’s just a rumor, but these rumours emerged at the Tour de France last year. I don’t know any more than that.”

Peiper added: “The UCI negotiating time is from the August 1, I think everbody respects that. Mark has been with us five years and we’ll give ourselves the opportunity to see about his future.”

The fact that phone maker HTC’s contract with the team expires at the end of the year is only likely to fuel rumors of Cavendish’s move to a team where sponsorship is already firmly in place.

But Peiper said he had plenty of confidence that team chief Bob Stapleton, who has brought both sportswear manufacturer Columbia and HTC on board, would deliver another major sponsor soon.

“Presently we’re working on sponsorship for next year, just as are many other teams,” added Peiper.

“Bob’s had the ability in the last years to bring the sponsors on board and we’re confident he’ll be able to do that again.

“There are many other teams in the same position. I think we’ve got a good chance to move forward as we have in the last years.”

Although refusing to speak to the press, Cavendish posted an angry response to the media reports on his Twitter account.

“As always, I can’t go 1 race without some sort of shit going on. At least it’s not a crash this time! I will say I’m committed…,” he tweeted.

“@HTCHighroad until the end of this year, and I’m concetrating (sic) now on #TourDeFrance.”