Bernie Eisel has described his reunion with Mark Cavendish at Dimension Data this year as like “having the gang back together”.
The duo has been close friends since they both rode together at HTC-Highroad and then Sky for six years up to 2013, and having spent the last three years riding on opposing teams it was the Manxman who persuaded Eisel to join him at the South African squad for 2016.
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Their former HTC team-mates Mark Renshaw — Cavendish’s trusted lead-out man who has moved with him from Etixx-Quick Step — and Edvald Boasson Hagen are also both at Dimension Data this year.
“It’s like having the gang back together. So far it has definitely been a joy ride, a fun ride,” Eisel told Cycling Weekly from Spain, where he is racing at Challenge Mallorca. “It was a long process to bring everything together, but as soon as we go OK this is a change, we all went for it.
“I fully trusted in him [Cavendish] and was like OK I’m ready for something new even if it was still quite uncertain.”
While at HTC, Eisel and Cavendish were part of one of the most formidable and dominant sprint trains seen in the peloton in recent years, winning 15 Tour de France stages in three years. However, Eisel admits their previous success does bring pressure to perform this season.
“It’s great and fun, but you also have to know the pressure is on,” Eisel continued. “It’s not because we’re back together we can control everything we want — there’s still a lot to do.
“I’m not the youngest any more, I’m starting my 16th season, and coming here to Dimension Data riding for Qhubeka was like OK, this is definitely a fresh start. I still want to show that I’m not here on my retirement plans.”
With Eisel starting his season in Majorca and Cavendish currently in Australia for the Cadel Evans Road Race this weekend, after spending much of the winter focusing on the track, the 34-year-old Austrian explains they haven’t spent that much time together. Though he admitted they are constantly in touch on the phone.
They are set to compete in their first races together at the Dubai Tour next week (February 3-6), followed by the Tour of Qatar (February 8-12).