Transfer Season Update: What is Going on With Mark Cavendish & Team B&B Hotels?
Making sense of the rumors of financial trouble at Team B&B Hotels, and why they still make such a natural landing spot for Mark Cavendish & his assault on the all-time Tour de France stage win record
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What is Going On at Team B&B Hotels?
In most cycling circles just a few weeks ago, it was all but accepted as fact that Mark Cavendish would be announced as Team B&B Hotels new star rider in a high-profile unveiling ceremony in Paris ahead of the 2023 Tour de France route reveal. Even if Jérôme Pineau’s outfit couldn’t afford Cavendish on their rumored €7.5 million annual budget for the 2022 season (the lowest amongst teams at the 2022 Tour de France), they were reportedly ready to bring on high-value sponsors that would allow the team to afford Cavendish and launch the team to a new level of success.
However, flash forward a few weeks and the Tour de France route presentation has come and gone without a peep from the B&B Hotels management team and no sign of any progress on a deal to sign a long-awaited title sponsor. Making matters worse, rumors continue to swirl about the viability of the team for the upcoming season due to both the aforementioned struggle to bring on a major title sponsor to pay for new additions and that they are also missing from the UCI’s list of teams aiming to race in 2023 (go deeper with this week’s TOL AIRmail newsletter). Needless to say, the fact that the team appears to be struggling to secure funding for the upcoming season is an incredibly concerning sign for both the program’s future prospects and Cavendish’s chances of finding a team that can afford to accede to his superstar demands.
Why Mark Cavendish and Team B&B Hotels Are a Perfect Fit
While, from a glance, this seemed an odd fit and somewhat confusing since it would mean the combination of one the most successful riders in the modern era and one of the worst-performing outfits in top-level professional cycling over the past few seasons, it makes more sense than one might assume. The potential of the superstar sprinter to use the B&B team as an empty vessel that he can mold around his personal racing ambitions is what makes B&B Hotels such a good fit for Cavendish. While B&B could be seen as a baffling and desperate choice for Cavendish, there are a few reasons why I think this is actually a great landing spot for the British star.
While B&B had a miserable 2022 season that saw them outperformed by the tiny Uno-X team and yet again fail to win a WorldTour race (they have yet to win one since the launch of the team in 2018), I thought they made a perfect landing spot for Cavendish for 2023 due to the simple fact that they could provide him with a platform for a Tour de France start and could allow him to give his full attention to stage wins since they lack any riders capable of challenging him for leadership.
It might have seemed like a bit of a risk for the team to bring on a fast-fading sprinter, but frankly, they don’t have many other good options and the 37-year-old Cavendish represents their best chance at generating their first win in a serious race. With Cavendish now reportedly being shopped around to teams like Movistar and Arkea-Samsic, the clock is ticking for Pineau and B&B Hotels to cut a deal with a major sponsor or watch their big off-season target get away.
Could Mark Cavendish Fail to Find a Team For 2023 & Miss Out On the Tour de France Yet Again?
In reality, the odds that Cavendish actually finds himself without a team are very low since with the promotion/relegation points battle starting all over again on January 1st, there are multiple teams like Arkea-Samsic that he could bring instant value to. And even if that were to fall through, Israel-Premier Tech would likely take a risk by picking up Cavendish if he were to go unsigned simply to increase their odds of a wildcard selection at the 2023 Tour. But, with rosters of top-level teams quickly reaching the UCI-mandated maximize rider limit, Cavendish’s options are shrinking by the day, and if he is forced to sign with a more established team, he could find himself, just like in 2022, in a Tour de France startline scrap and yet again missing out on a chance to overtake Eddy Merckx for the all-time Tour de France stage win record (he currently just needs a single win to accomplish this).
Despite the perceived funding issues at B&B and the incredibly concerning case of the disappearing team presentation, my prediction is that the small French team is still Cavendish’s preferred landing spot due to the lack of any other star riders already on the roster who could get in between him and the Tour de France start line. This means he will likely hold off on signing with an outfit like Movistar, DSM, and Arkea until B&B can either scrape together the funds to bring him (and a veteran leadout rider like Max Richeze) on board for one last run at the Tour de France or the program officially announces they won’t be fielding a team for 2023. In short, I would be shocked if Cavendish announces a move to a team other than B&B in the coming weeks and fully expect the team to push through its current issues and roll up to the 2023 Tour de France with Mark Cavendish in tow.
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Cavendish is rich with multiple homes and cars. If his sole goal is to ride one more Tour de France, why doesn't he forego his big contracts, ride with B&B for free, and hopefully win the stage he carves?