Cycling: Mark Cavendish signs for African team MTN-Qhubeka

British cyclist Mark Cavendish signed for South Africa cycling team MTN-Qhubeka, the team said on Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015.
British cyclist Mark Cavendish signed for South Africa cycling team MTN-Qhubeka, the team said on Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa cycling team MTN-Qhubeka announced on Tuesday the signing of sprinters Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw for next season.

Qhubeka, who will shortly undergo a name change to Team Dimension Data, have also added Austrian Bernhard Eisel, who will be released by Team Sky at the end of the season.

In July, they became the first African team to race in the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race in the world.

"I'm super excited about becoming a part of the Team for 2016. It is a team that I have watched closely as it has grown, especially over this season and been really impressed with the spirit, strength and dynamics of the group," said Cavendish, a winner of 26 Tour de France stages and former road race world champion.

"It's fair to say that most of the peloton has seen how incredible the Team raced this year."

Cavendish will leave Belgian team Etixx-Quick Step, where he has spent the last three years but for whom he will not race again as his season is over due to shoulder surgery last week.

Cavendish was once regarded as the fastest sprinter in the world but has seen Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel eclipse him over the last few of years.

"Mark Cavendish joining our Team is a huge step forward for the team as we strive to get to the next level in world cycling," said Qhubeka owner Douglas Ryder. "To also integrate Mark Renshaw and Bernie Eisel is a game changer in terms of performance and experience, which, added to the incredible talent we already have in the team opens up many possibilities for us."

Australian Renshaw has been Cavendish's chief lead-out rider for several years, dating back to their time at HTC Highroad together from 2009 to 2011. Although they went their separate ways when Cavendish joined Sky for the 2012 season, Renshaw was recruited by Etixx-Quick Step in 2014 to reunite the pair.

During July's Tour, Cavendish spoke of his desire to stay with Etixx - albeit on a much reduced salary - but the Belgian outfit are believed to have been less keen to continue the partnership.