Cycling: Mark Cavendish leaves Team Sky

 

Mark Cavendish, the 23-time stage winner at the Tour de France, has left Team Sky.

The 27-year-old, who was the winner of the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, joins Belgian team Omega Pharma-Quick Step for the 2013 season.

A statement on Team Sky's website read: "Mark Cavendish is to leave Team Sky to join Belgian team Omega Pharma-QuickStep ahead of the 2013 season."

Cavendish made a high profile move to Team Sky following the collapse of HTC-Highroad at the end of the 2011 season. But his one season with the British team was considered a disappointment.

Despite winning three stages during this summer's Tour de France, Team Sky were unable to successfully balance Cavendish's ambitions of retaining the green jersey he won in 2011 with that of Bradley Wiggins' attempt to win the general classification.

Priority was given to Wiggins who would become the first British rider to leave Paris with the yellow jersey.

That left Cavendish's future in doubt and today's announcement was preceded by much speculation that the 2011 Road Race World Champion would move on.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep had been the favourites for Cavendish's signature, especially after a place was made available after Levi Leipheimer was sacked for his role in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

The Belgian squad and their sporting director Brian Holm, who worked with Cavendish at HTC-Highroad, have the desire and capability to make the Briton their Grand Tour leader and prioritise stage success.

With the Tour won, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said Cavendish, who is fourth on the Tour's list of all-time stage winners behind leader Eddy Merckx on 34 stage wins, could leave or stay.

The British Cycling performance director said in July: "He is a prolific British winner and on the one hand we would love to have a prolific British winner on the team.

"We will still be a GC (general classification) team and if he felt, or if it was felt, that he would like a dedicated team around him, then he is quite within his rights to want to do that.

"We wouldn't fall out about it, there wouldn't be an issue about it, but we are very proud to have him on Team Sky, he is a fantastic champion and long may that continue."

Cavendish, who was disappointed after missing out with another major objective in 2012, the Olympic Games road race, broke his silence on the matter on the eve of the Tour of Britain.

He said: "I have seen some stuff about a release fee but I don't think Dave would do that. I hope that is just a bit of speculation (about the fee) and everything can work out amicably for everybody."

Cavendish won the final stage of the Tour of Britain to Guildford, his 15th success of the season in what would prove to be his last race in a Team Sky jersey before switching squads for 2013.

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