Tuesday, August 14, 2012

If Cavendish Were Joining OmegaPharma-QuickStep

Not even one full year into his tenure at Team Sky, Mark Cavendish is already rumored to be moving elsewhere;  super-team and classics powerhouse OmegaPharma-QuickStep (OPQS) is rumored to be the most likely destination. We've written quite a few pieces on this veritable team, but only focused on their spring classics goals.

Certainly there is much discussion as to why the sudden souring of relationship between Cavendish and Team Sky (Is it the failure to win the Olympic gold medal? Is it acrimony between Cavendish and Team Sky's GC leadership? Why did Dave Brailsford hint at it at all?), but let's look ahead at the prospect of Cavendish joining OPQS.

Cavendish is the world's top sprinter today, it is hard to argue against that unless there is a convenient obstacle near the finish that can be exploited by the likes of Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale. Here's what we make of the possibility of Cav joining OPQS.

Cav will fill a sorely needed gap in the squad

With star Tom Boonen more keen to focus on monuments such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, he should be more than happy to let Cav take the role of super sprinter for the grand tours. At the present, OPQS's TdF squad looks really anemic. Their investment in Tony Martin isn't paying off yet, and they don't have a credible GC leader. Their stage hunter Sylvain Chavanel has had poor luck recently. With Cav in the squad, stage wins are guaranteed.

As OPQS strives to be a truly international team, or at least have a pan-European presence, good performance in the grand tours is the best way to ensure positive coverage. With Cav as super sprinter, they are sure to get coverage and a few stage wins along the way.

At a more tactical level, imagine a team that boasts an escape artist at the level of Chavanel and a sprinter with the stature of Cavendish. That will be a very hard team to beat in many races.

OPQS already has a sprint train on the ready

Many fans will note that OPQS already has the roster to support Cav's sprinting ambition. Their hiring of Gerald Ciolek and Francesco Chichi has not exactly paid off, so they may be relegated. Add to this strong men such as Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra, and they already have what can be a top sprint train.

Cav will strengthen their classics prospects

But not in the way that is the most obvious. Befitting their high ambition, OPQS cares about every little thing from the special aged tubulars that they use once a year, soldering their spoke nipples, placing team assistants at strategic choke points, choice of team hotel, to team car placement on the caravan. This means that they need to have earned a respectable number of points. What better way to net points than to have a reliable sprinter on the team? Cav may not be riding as domestique for Boonen anytime soon, but his presence will help the team overall.

There is some conflict of interest, but it is likely to be manageable

Obviously, manager Patrick Lefevere will have to manage expectations and ambition when it comes to a few races such as Milan-Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem. Although if one or both start to falter and start to demand more opportunities outside their traditional domains, Lefevere may have to resort to his usual blustery criticisms and veiled threats to keep his team in line.

What do you think of the prospect of Cav joining OPQS? Share your thoughts below ....

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