Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish to join Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Mark Cavendish is to leave Team Sky and join Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2013.
Sprinter Cavendish, 27, endured a frustrating one-year spell with the British outfit which saw him support Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.
In September, he confirmed his desire for an "amicable" split as he looked for a team that would back his aim to win sprint stages and points jerseys.
The 2011 world champion won 15 stages and claimed his first overall victory in a stage race during his time at Sky.
"Mark has been a true champion for us this year," said Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford.
"It's been an honour having the [world champion's] rainbow jersey in this team and great to work so closely with a rider I've known since he was a junior.
"He has been a real team player, making history in a Tour de France winning team.
"Cav won 15 races with us, including his first stage race, three Tour [de France] stages, and the fourth win in his unbeaten run on the Champs Elysees.
"The sight of him winning in Paris, with the yellow jersey leading out the world champion - both in Team Sky kit - is something you'll never forget.
"We all wish Mark the very best with his future ambitions in a new team and as British rider."
Cavendish, who last year became the first British rider in the history of the Tour de France to win the green jersey for the best sprinter, joined Sky on a three-year deal after the HTC-Highroad team disbanded at the end of the 2011 season.
At HTC, Cavendish was the undisputed team leader and had claimed 20 Tour de France stage victories prior to the 2012 season.
But he soon found himself in a support role as Sky prioritised general classification victories.
Cavendish managed another three stage wins this year but was only given full lead-out support on the last two - 18 and 20 - as the team concentrated on securing the yellow jersey for Wiggins.
At the time, Cavendish exemplified his unease at Sky by equating his position to "putting [star England and Manchester United striker] Wayne Rooney in defence."
Wiggins added his tribute to Cavendish, with reference to 22 July in Paris when his Tour triumph was confirmed and Cavendish won the stage.
"Sad to see my mate Mr Mark Cavendish leaving Sky, it's been a pleasure this year and the highlight leading out the man on the Champs (Elysees)," Wiggins wrote on Twitter.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in September that Cavendish was "quite within his rights" to want a team dedicated around him and his priorities.
At Omega Pharma-QuickStep, he will link up once more with sporting director Brian Holm, with whom he previously worked with at HTC-Highroad.
Cavendish's switch to the Belgian team was made easier on Tuesday after they sacked American cyclist Levi Leipheimer because of his role in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Despite being best known for his sprinting, Cavendish won his first general classification prize when he took the Dutch Ster ZLM Tour in June.
Last month's Tour of Britain proved to be his final race with Team Sky, and he showcased his sprinting prowess when claiming victory in a bunch finish on the final stage in Guildford.
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