Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere has revealed he is contemplating giving Mark Cavendish an improved contract and taking him to the Tour de France this summer.
When Cavendish re-joined his former team last year, it was seen in some quarters as little more than a swansong and his vastly reduced contract signalled that he was not seen as one of the star names in the QuickStep set-up.
However, Cavendish’s remarkable success in winning four stages at the Tour of Turkey, combined with an injury to lead sprinter Sam Bennett, means the Brit could be in line for a hugely unexpected return to the Tour, where he has won 30 stages in his storied career.
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Bennett was forced out of the Baloise Belgium Tour with a knee problem and Cavendish has emerged as a possible replacement, even if Lefevere says the rider wants a suitable increase in salary if he is to hit the roads of France.
In quotes reported by Cyclingnews, he said: “I went to dinner with Mark Cavendish on Sunday evening and the question came up: Do you want to do another Grand Tour? Mark replied: ‘Not at this salary, no.’
“That may sound cynical, but I understand his point of view. Mark was 35 years old and joined us at the last minute. At that time, the Tour was totally out of the question. He signed a minimum contract because we had minimal expectations.
"The cards are different now. His level is much better than expected. The Tour of Turkey is only the Tour of Turkey, but he won four stages. Mark was also freewheeling in the Scheldeprijs and in the Elfstedenronde he was at least as fast as Tim Merlier in the sprint on Sunday. Mark still has his speed.
“But I understand him about the Tour de France. For him, that means racing with pressure, under the magnifying glass of the media. If he even comes close to a win, everyone immediately starts talking about Eddy Merckx's record. Merckx has won 34 stages in the Tour, Mark is now at thirty.
“It's not fair to have a rider with a minimum contract as a Deceuninck-QuickStep lead sprinter, with all the pressure and expectations that come with it. I agree with Mark on that. All the more so because we have never been able to offer him a full, uninterrupted (race) programme this year.”
With the continued uncertainty around Bennett, Lefevere says he could work on a new contract which would enable Cavendish to be available.
“It's something I'm thinking about right now: extending Cavendish for the Tour, on better terms.
“At least to get that issue out of the way. With the level he has now, Mark wants to continue for at least another year. We're going to at least talk about it together."
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