Mark Cavendish is firmly in the WorldTour shop window as teams fight for the Manx Missile's signature ahead of his impending departure from Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.
The sprinter's sighting at a Rapha event in partnership with Palace Skate set tongues wagging that Jonathan Vaughters' EF Education-EasyPost could well be his next destination, but it seems there is a new suitor on the scene — B&B Hotels - KTM.
> Is this a clue about Cav's next team?
The French UCI ProTeam, not even part of cycling's WorldTour top table, are reportedly rebranding under the City of Paris' advertising next year, so what better outfit for a four-time Champs-Élysées winner?
Jérôme Pineau, the manager of the team, told Le Télégramme they are interested, but the deal is "quite complicated", and is a "50-50" chance.
Decent odds for a team without a Grand Tour win in its history and which could not better a sixth-place stage finish at the Tour de France.
> "I know I'll win again": Mark Cavendish confident of 35th Tour de France stage win
And yet, Pineau says: "Yes, we are talking. He is not one of the five who have already signed. He's someone I love very much. I would very much like him to come to us, but it's quite complicated. Cavendish is a cycling legend. There is sport but not only… It looks like negotiations for the recruitment of a footballer.
"He wants to come to us but he doesn't want to come on retreat to us either. If he comes, it will be to win. We want to win together. Today, for his recruitment, let's say it's 50-50."
Cavendish has largely disappeared from our TV screens since winning a second national road race championship at the end of June, racing just five stages of Tour de Pologne and the Commonwealth Games road race, his best finish eighth on the opening day in Poland.
[Alex Whitehead / SWpix.com]
The 37-year-old missed out on Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl's Tour team, a decision, and subsequent uproar, soon silenced by the team winning the first two stages, the second with first-choice sprinter Fabio Jakobsen.
> Mark Cavendish "not part of our project" — Patrick Lefevere confirms Cav will leave Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
His omission means Cavendish remains locked on 34 stage wins at the race — tied most in history with Eddy Merckx, as we all know — but surely leaves his signature an enticing prospect for any team looking for the PR glory of having their branding plastered all over a historic No.35.
Where would you like to see Cav race next season? For a 'Paris Team', EF's pink Palace platoon or an Ineos return? Let us know in the comments...
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