Cycling: Mark Cavendish joins Team Sky

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The Independent Online

World champion Mark Cavendish has completed his much-anticipated move to Team Sky.

The 26-year-old Manxman, a product of the British Cycling performance programme, will race for the British-based team from next year.

Dave Brailsford, Team Sky Principal who also doubles as British Cycling's performance director, said: "Mark is a born winner and what excites me most is the attitude he brings to all the teams he rides for.

"We want to inspire more fans to get into cycling and I can think of no-one better to help us do that. We are delighted that the new world champion will be riding for Team Sky next season."

Last month, Cavendish became the first British male to win the world title since 1965, the crowning achievement of a season which also saw him win the sprinter's green jersey in the Tour de France.

"Mark is the greatest sprinter of his generation and is well on his way to becoming the greatest of all time," Brailsford added.

"He is a rider of exceptional talent who has proved his pedigree at the very highest level of our sport."

Cavendish has won 20 Tour de France stages in his career and a further 10 stages across the two other Grand Tours, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.

Other notable successes include the sprinters competition at the 2010 Vuelta and the 2009 Milan-San Remo.

He joins a team which has a British backbone - as well as Brailsford at the helm, Cavendish will find several Great Britain team-mates, including three-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and fellow academy product Geraint Thomas.

On paper, Wiggins would seem to have most to lose from Cavendish's arrival - the team has so far been geared around trying to secure success in a Grand Tour for Wiggins.

However, the Londoner declared himself to be delighted with the move.

"Team Sky has enjoyed a fantastic second season and Mark's signing is another statement of our intent for next year and beyond," he said.

Geraint Thomas, who along with Wiggins was part of the squad which helped Cavendish to win the world road race, said: "Cav joining Team Sky is fantastic news.

"In many ways it's like he's coming home - the team has a number of riders and support staff that he grew up with and it won't take him any time to settle in.

"I think everyone saw that when we helped him to victory for Great Britain at the Worlds, and we are all looking forward to helping him deliver more wins for Team Sky."

Cavendish's move to a team populated by so many British team-mates is predicted to pay dividends at London 2012.

The men's road race is on the first day of Olympic competition and Cavendish is expected to get the fortnight off to a perfect start for the hosts on a course which might have been designed around him.

And it would seem a vindication for Brailsford after the close relationship between Team Sky and British Cycling survived an independent investigation.

"When we started with Team Sky everyone questioned the dual role of the team - did it conflict? - and they couldn't see the advantage. But in Mark's case, when you look at the Olympic road race we can make sure he has an optimal programme going into 2012," Brailsford told the Guardian.

British Cycling president Brian Cookson said in a statement: "It is fantastic that Mark is joining Team Sky and I am sure that every fan of the sport in Britain will be excited by this news."

He added: "The addition of Mark will only serve to further strengthen the team and I'm particularly pleased that arguably the best known British rider in the world will now be riding for a British team.

"Much of the work we do at British Cycling is about using the success we enjoy at the top level to inspire others to get on their bikes.

"With someone like Mark having been all the way through our system from his earliest years and now joining Team Sky, that link between inspiration and participation grows ever stronger, further increases the profile of our sport, and will hopefully encourage more people to join the ever growing ranks of cyclists across the nation."

Sky also announced the signing of Austrian Bernard Eisel, one of Cavendish's trusted support riders at HTC-Highroad - his employers until the end of this season.