Mark Cavendish is searching for a new team, which could be Bahrain-Merida with current team Dimension Data showing little interest in renewing the star sprinter for 2019.
A Bahrain-Merida deal with automotive manufacturer McLaren could pave the way for Cavendish's arrival. The team is reportedly dealing with the McLaren Technology Centre in Surrey and Cavendish as part of an overall package.
When asked for comment regarding the Manx rider, team general managers Doug Ryder and Brent Copeland were unable to respond.
Ryder signed Cavendish for the 2016 season, bringing on Deloitte consulting firm at the same time to help fund the contracts with him and support riders Mark Renshaw and Bernard Eisel.
According to a Cycling Weekly sources, the two have not spoken recently and a 2019 renewal contract appears unlikely. Instead, the team announced several new riders for their Grand Tour team – including Roman Kreuziger – and Classics team – including Michael Valgren and Enrico Gasparotto. Sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo is due to join, too.
Copeland, also from South Africa like Ryder, began the Bahrain-Merida team with multiple Grand Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali in 2017. He helped it grow with money coming from island state Bahrain and the support of Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
For 2019, he made several smart signings by picking up riders who were uncertain if BMC Racing would continue. The BMC Racing structure eventually will continue as CCC, but Rohan Dennis, Dylan Teuns and Damiano Caruso had already signed for Bahrain.
Would there be space for a super sprinter like Cavendish? The 33-year-old has 30 Tour de France stage wins in his career and is aiming at beating Eddy Merckx's 34 stage record and taking gold in the Madison at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, crashes and the Epstein-Barr virus have plagued his 2018 season. Any team that signs Cavendish would also have to offer support via staff and riders like Bernard Eisel.
Bahrain, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, is considering the deal to bring on board new sponsor McLaren. Cavendish already has connection with McLaren from his days riding on Specialized at team Highroad.
It is uncertain how much space the team would give Cavendish if they did sign him. With eight-man rosters, Grand Tour teams have little space to support top sprinters and top classification riders. Much would depend on Nibali's and Dennis's 2019 programmes and just how fast Cavendish returns to his winning ways.
If Bahrain falls through, it is uncertain where Cavendish could turn. One idea floated this summer was that Team Sky would offer him a parachute deal to allow him to race on the road heading towards Tokyo.
Any deal could be announced soon with the UCI governing body's deadlines on teams starting already this September 28.
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