Sat, Oct 20, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Top sprinter Cavendish to leave Sky for three-year deal with Omega Pharma

AP, LONDON

Belgian rider Tom Boonen, left, of the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team and British rider Mark Cavendish talk during the third stage of the Tour of Qatar in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 7.

Photo: EPA

Mark Cavendish, cycling’s top sprinter, is leaving Team Sky after just one season to join Belgian lineup Omega Pharma-Quick-Step on a three-year deal.

The British rider moved to Team Sky from HTC-Highroad at the end of last year’s season, and won three stages in this year’s Tour de France.

However, the British team’s priorities were firmly set toward general classification successes for the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, leaving Cavendish’s future in the balance, despite having two more years left on his contract.

“Mark is one of the most outstanding riders in cycling, a true star recognized internationally for his unique style and irrefutable athletic skills,” Omega Pharma team owner Zdenek Bakala said. “His extraordinary sprints have become a cycling ‘must-see’ that can fire up crowds the world over.”

The 27-year-old Cavendish, who has won a total of 23 stages in the Tour de France, played a vital support role in this year’s race as Wiggins secured overall victory for the first time.

Cavendish, who took the rainbow jersey as the world road race champion last year, privately expressed a desire to move on in July, before going public last month — believing Team Sky’s stated ambitions and his own no longer matched.

“Mark has been a true champion for Team Sky this year,” team principal Dave Brailsford said. “It’s been an honor having the 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.”

Cavendish will take the place at Omega Pharma vacated by US rider Levi Leipheimer, who was sacked last week for his role in the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong.

“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 teammates in one of the most successful and established teams in cycling,” Cavendish said.

“I believe in the team’s project and I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” he added.

Cavendish’s last race for Team Sky came at the Tour of Britain last month, when he won the final stage to go out on a high.

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