Mark Cavendish will race for Omega Pharma-QuickStep next year.
The Manx Missile completed just one year of a three year contract with Team Sky, with whom he won 15 races this season, including his final outing for the team at the last stage of the Tour of Britain.
He will be reunited with several of his teammates at the Belgian team, for which he has signed for three years until 2015, and which he will jointly lead with Classics king, Tom Boonen, and world time trial champion, Tony Martin.
Cavendish said: “After a year of being part of the successes at Team Sky I’ve decided to leave to join Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team to pursue different goals. It’s been an incredibly fun year riding with friends I’ve grown up with but I’m super excited about riding with old friends and team-mates in one of the most successful and established teams in cycling. I believe in the team’s project and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Cavendish won three stages each of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this year, but was understood to be dissatisfied by the lack of support for his bid for a second green jersey in the latter.
Cavendish won the coveted maillot vert with five stage wins at the 2011 Tour, and followed the triumph two months later with the greatest win of his career: the world road race championship.
A move to Team Sky followed, but with the team focussed on securing overall victory for Bradley Wiggins at this year’s Tour, Cavendish was reduced to the role of domestique, fetching bottles for his teammates.
His three stage victories included the final stage to Paris, where he was led out on the Champs Elysees by Wiggins, but the seeds of his discontent had been sewn.
Team Sky principal, Dave Brailsford, said immediately after the race that while he would like to retain the Manxman’s services, Cavendish would be free to leave if he chose.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep was one of a handful of teams whose success in 2013 could compare to Team Sky’s.
Boonen broke several records during his domination of the northern Classics. Martin added a second consecutive world time trial championship and second overall victory in the Tour of Beijing to his palmares. The team won the world team time trial championship.
Cavendish told RCUK in April that Boonen’s achievements were “beyond impressive”.
Team manager, Patrick Lefevre, had spoken publically of his desire to sign Cavendish. Today, he described Cavendish as “the best sprinter in the world and one of the all time best sprinters, ever.
“With his arrival, the team will be even more balanced and it will be enriched with another top rider, who will become the man to count on in the sprint, just as Tony Martin is the point man for the time trial and Tom Boonen the best rider for the Northern Classics,” he added.
“Mark will also find a time-tested technical staff on the team, as well as high calibre athletes eager to work with him to reach new, grand goals together.”
Lefevre’s team enjoys the financial support of Czech billionaire, Zdenek Bakala.
Cavendish has left Team Sky after completing one year of a three year contract. It is not known whether the British team will enforce a release fee. Speaking before the Tour of Britain, Cavendish said he hoped his long relationship with Brailsford and British Cycling meant the would not.
The Tour of Britain was Cavendish’s final race for Sky. He ended on a high by winning the final stage to Guildford.