Rolf Aldag, who has played a key role in guiding Mark Cavendish to 20 Tour de France stage wins with HTC-Highroad, believes Team Sky are ‘gambling’ by signing the Manx Missile.
Cavendish, who became the first Brit to win the Tour’s green jersey in July, signed for Sky on Tuesday, raising doubts over whether the team would be able to support both the sprinter and general classification riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Aldag was part of the last team to win both the yellow and green jersey in the same race, with Team Telekom registering back-to-back doubles in 1996 and 1997.
Cavendish has been given the full support of his team each July but Aldag, part of HTC-Highroad’s management, believes the 26-year-old may not enjoy the same backing as Froome and Wiggins, who finished second and third overall at the Vuelta a Espana.
“You can try but it’s gambling and it’s tricky for both the riders and the managers,” Aldag told CyclingNews. “One thing is obvious, if they believe that Wiggins can go for yellow they can’t compromise and give Cavendish four guys for the sprints.
“If they stretch it and think both riders have chance of achieving their goals, then honestly they don’t really believe in Wiggins. When they put out the final nine names both riders will see what the team thinks about their leaders. There’s no other way around it.
“Making four for GC you can turn them around and put them on the flat but if they believe Wiggins can win the Tour then Cav deserves one guy with him and that’s about it.”
HTC-Highroad’s leadout train has become synonymous with the Tour de France, with the team’s riders, who were all forced to find a new team for 2012 after Bob Stapleton failed to find a new sponsor, sacrificing their own ambitions for Cavendish.
But Aldag believes Cavendish’s transfer could lead to more open racing, with no team willing or able to chase a breakaway.
The German added: “Sporting wise it’s not the best decision but it’s the safest. Since he’s been professional he’s had 100 per cent commitment from the team and they [Sky] just can’t do that. It would be wrong on Wiggins. They have a GC contender for the Tour so you can not bring eight guys to the Tour willing to work for one in that situation.
“We [HTC-Highroad] had some years with climbers but it always came down to the fact that if we were in a critical situation Michael Rogers, Kim Kirchen or whoever we had there, they had to go to the front and ride. That obviously won’t happen with Wiggins and Froome.
“Cav will still win his races and he will be a superstar in his country and Sky was the best choice to make that happen. He’s pure natural talent and you saw that when Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour but he still dominated.
“If it comes down to a sprint and he’s in shape he will win but it might not end in a sprint as much. HTC often forced it to a sprint and I’m not sure now that Sky will do that. If Lotto won’t close gaps for Greipel and the same happens with GreenEdge and Gossy, then more breaks could win.”
Team Sky re-sign experienced trio
Meanwhile, Sky’s 2012 roster continues to take shape after experienced trio Juan Antonio Flecha, Christian Knees and Michael Barry signed new deals.
However, Russell Downing will leave the team at the end of the current season. The Brit tweeted: “Thanks to all at TeamSky for a great 2 years. Now to plan for 2012.”
Flecha has made 14 Grand Tour appearances during his career, while Knees formed part of winning line-ups at Criterium du Dauphine, Eneco Tour and Vattenfall Cyclassics this season, as well as riding the Tour de France.
Both Flecha and Knees have penned new two-year deals, while Barry, who made his Tour de France debut with Sky in 2010, has extended his current deal by 12 months.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “At Team Sky we are always striving to improve as a team and retaining our key riders is a vital component of that strategy. We are delighted that three world-class talents in Michael, Christian and Juan Antonio have seen Team Sky as the best place to continue their careers.
“As athletes, their records at the very highest level of our sport speak for themselves. As senior professionals they have set a standard of behaviour that is an inspiration to our younger riders. All three have contributed hugely to our success as a professional team and we all look forward to continuing that momentum into 2012 and beyond.”