Speculation has been increasing that Mark Cavendish will be making the rumoured move to South African team MTN-Qhubeka next year, along with leadout man Mark Renshaw.
Currently both at Etixx-Quickstep, the two riders and possibly directeur sportif Brian Holm could be en route to the breakout team for 2016. The fact that Cavendish is moving was apparently confirmed by Bradley Wiggins in an interview with Sky at the Tour of Britain earlier this week.
Reports suggest budget has been the major issue in securing Cavendish, with the Manx sprinter likely to bring a personal sponsor with him. A quick look at his personal website www.cvndsh.com reveals a few potential candidates, such as Specialized, Oakley and Nike. Team manager Brian Smith confirmed the budget issues involved in signing Cavendish.
"We simply don't have the money. I told them to go out and find another sponsor, we're open to another naming rights sponsor," MTN-Qhubeka team manager Brian Smith told Cyclingnews. "I like Mark and I think Mark, like Tyler and other guys, can ride differently.
"Mark maybe isn't the fastest guy any more with these new guys coming through. I'd like to try and reinvent him and look at different ways."
The potential addition of one of the world's most high-profile sprinters is just one of the changes taking place at MTN-Qhubeka ahead of 2016. First and foremost is its name: current lead sponsor MTN is withdrawing from the team at the end of 2015, with IT firm Dimension Data mooted to come on board as a sponsor. The team may also seek a WorldTour licence for 2016, although team principal Doug Ryder played down this option during the Tour de France.
One face that will definitely not be at the team next year is rising star Louis Meintjes. The climber, currently occupying tenth on GC in the Vuelta a Espana, has confirmed he will be moving to Lampre-Merida next year.
The news came as something of a shock to the team, said Smith.
"We'd already agreed terms with his manager and we'd spoken to him. The terms had already been met and a contract had been sent to Robbie Hunter," Smith told Cyclingnews. "For some reason there was a very big U-turn from Louis, I don't blame him for that.
"I really question why Lampre would release that they're signing Louis Meintjes during the Vuelta," he added. "How do you think the whole team felt the next day? I went down to breakfast and they were all very down."