MTN-Qhubeka have emerged as the favourites to sign Mark Cavendish for 2016, as the Manxman seeks to keep his Olympic ambitions alive.
Cavendish’s long-time lead-out man Mark Renshaw also looks likely to make the switch from Etixx-Quick Step to the second division African-registered squad.
Austrian rider Bernie Eisel has previously admitted that joining up Cavendish again next season is “an option”, and directeur sportif Brian Holm, who has worked with Cavendish for virtually all of his professional road career, could also move but reportedly has yet to receive an offer.
Multinational telecommunications company MTN will end their sponsorship of the team at the end of 2015; it is said that 30-year-old Cavendish will bring personal backing to the squad.
Global ICT company – and a Tour de France partner – Dimension Data are likely to become the team’s secondary sponsor.
Etixx and MTN declined to comment on the speculation, although the latter are believed to be making announcements regarding their future in the coming days. Cavendish and MTN are both currently riding the Tour of Britain.
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Cavendish also attracted interest from Trek and Tinkoff-Saxo, while his current employees Etixx seemingly offered him a deal, albeit with a lower salary than his existing contract.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere told Cycling Weekly last month that Cavendish’s apparent wish to compete in the omnium next year’s Rio Olympics was a problem for him.
“My sponsors are not ready to pay millions for someone who wants to prepare six months for the Olympics,” he said.
* See today’s Cycling Weekly (September 10 issue) for more on Cavendish and this year’s Tour of Britain.