Cycling’s top sprinter Mark Cavendish will join South African team MTN-Qhubeka, according to reports Friday morning.
The team announced Friday Dimension Data will replace title sponsor MTN but when asked by VeloNews about Cavendish, representatives did not comment.
The 30-year-old Brit counts 26 Tour de France stage wins, including one from this summer’s race. French newspaper L’Equipe in 2012 named him the Tour’s best ever sprinter.
The transfer has been rumored for some time. After Etixx said it was likely Cavendish would leave and with other teams’ rosters nearly complete, MTN appeared to be Cavendish’s top choice.
On the heels of numerous transfer and renewal announcements, a team MTN communique is expected soon.
The newspapers reported that Cavendish will join MTN with Bernard Eisel and his current teammate Mark Renshaw. Eisel spent the last four years with Sky after switching over to the British team in 2012 with Cavendish. Cavendish left Sky and joined Etixx in 2013.
Het Nieuwsblad wrote that the manager of the Etixx team, Patrick Lefevere, has not spoken to Cavendish in “several weeks.” Cavendish last raced for the team in the Tour of Britain earlier this month, where he crashed and abandoned in stage 6. His injured shoulder forced him to pull out of this week’s UCI Road World Championships and end his season early.
With fewer victories, Lefevere explained that Cavendish’s market value fell.
“When he signed with us, he was ex-world champion and he won stages in the Tour,” Lefevere told VeloNews last month. “He still has a lot of victories in the Tour, he has his value, for sure he has his value, no doubt, but the cycling world has changed and there’s less money than before, also in my team.”
Cavendish’s palmeres includes the 2011 world championship, the 2009 edition of Milano-Sanremo, three Scheldeprijs victories, and 15 Giro d’Italia stage wins.
Besides Eisel and Renshaw, Cavendish could bring money with him to MTN. Lefevere said Cavendish and his agent were offering to bring along a new sponsor for 2016.
The Pro continental squad could use the money, as telecommunications company MTN announced after the Tour de France that it is ending its sponsorship of the team. South Africa’s Dimension Data announced Friday it would cover most of the costs for the future.
The team in black and white continues to celebrate after a stage win in its debut Tour de France and another in the Vuelta a España. With most of the racing finished for 2015, now is a good time to name its new star for the 2016 season.