World champion Mark Cavendish has completed his long-awaited transfer to Team Sky ahead of the 2012 season.
Cavendish became the first Brit to win the Tour de France’s green jersey in July before capping a superb year by winning the World Championships in Copenhagen last month.
Already one of the most prized assets in the peloton, Cavendish’s value rocketed with victory in the Danish capital, leaving Sky team principal Dave Brailsford to hint the deal had run aground.
But the Manx Missile finally put pen to paper to end months of speculation on who he will ride for in 2012.
“I’m confident that we can achieve success and my aim is to win stages and the green jersey at the Tour de France,” Cavendish told Sky Sports News.
Brailsford said: “Mark is the greatest sprinter of his generation and is well on his way to becoming the greatest of all time. He is a rider of exceptional talent who has proved his pedigree at the very highest level of our sport.
“Mark is a born winner and what excites me most is the attitude he brings to all the teams he rides for. We want to inspire more fans to get into cycling and I can think of no one better to help us do that. We are delighted that the new world champion will be riding for Team Sky next season.”
Brailsford stated his ambition to have a British rider win the Tour de France within five years and the team finished this year’s Vuelta a Espana with two Brits on the podium, raising the question of how the squad will balance its Tour general classification and green jersey ambitions in 2012 should Cavendish sign.
But Bradley Wiggins, who finished second behind winner Juan Jose Cobo and team-mate Chris Froome in Spain, was quick to welcome Cavendish.
“I think I speak for everyone in the squad when I say that we’re all delighted to have Cav joining us at Team Sky,” said Wiggins. “He is the best sprinter in the world and has an energy and passion for cycling that is infectious.
“Team Sky has enjoyed a fantastic second season and Mark’s signing is another statement of our intent for next year and beyond.”
While Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad contract was already due to expire at the end of the current season, all riders on the US-based team were made available for transfer after owner Bob Stapleton failed to find a sponsor for 2012.
Eisel has played a key role in Cavendish’s success at HTC-Highroad, protecting the sprinter and shepherding him through the mountains, and the Austrian revealed it was an easy decision to follow Cavendish to Sky.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I knew I’d have to explore other possibilities and Team Sky were at the top of my list…The fact that I wanted to stay with Cav was also a major factor and we’re both happy that we will now have more years ahead of us.
“My main job will be keeping him protected leading into the sprints, but the spring Classics are also very important to me and I’ll be looking to ride well in them.
“If I can secure a ride in the Tour de France that will be great as well. I have ridden the last eight Tours and finished them all, and next year is my 12th season as a professional so I’d like to think I have the experience to be able to contribute to the team.”
Brailsford added: “Bernhard is one of the most hard-working and respected riders in the peloton and is exactly the type of guy we have been looking to bring to the team. He’s a natural leader with a cool, calm head – in the same mould of Juan Antonio Flecha and Mathew Hayman – and will also be able to take charge of things on the road.”
Cavendish won his first Tour de France stage in Chateauroux in 2008, going on to claim another three victories before abandoning on stage 14 to concentrate on the Olympic Games in Beijing.
But the 26-year-old left China as the only member of the British track cycling team not to win a medal after finishing eighth in the madison with Wiggins, who won gold in the individual pursuit and team pursuit.
Cavendish returned to the road and won Milan-San Remo in March 2009, before winning six stages of that year’s Tour and a further five in 2010.
The sprinter increased his tally to 20 stage wins by the end of this year’s Tour de France, rising to sixth on the all-time list. The Brit then won the London 2012 Olympic road race test event in August before fine-tuning his World Championship preparations with two stage victories in the Tour of Britain.
Six Team Sky riders then helped propel Cavendish to world gold in Copenhagen, including lead-out man Geraint Thomas.
Thomas said: “Cav joining Team Sky is fantastic news. In many ways it’s like he’s coming home – the team has a number of riders and support staff that he grew up with and it won’t take him any time to settle in.
“I think everyone saw that when we helped him to victory for Great Britain at the worlds, and we are all looking forward to helping him deliver more wins for Team Sky.”
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