New challenge for Cavendish
Mark Cavendish has joined Omega Pharma-QuickStep after negotiating a release from Team Sky 12 months into a three-year contract.
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The 27-year-old from the Isle of Man privately expressed a desire to move on in July at the Tour de France, before going public in September, believing Team Sky's stated ambitions and his own no longer matched.
Earlier this week Cavendish was preparing for a second season with Team Sky after protracted talks over an early termination broke down.
Press Association Sport understands Team Sky relented and waived a release fee, allowing the Manxman to move on and sign a three-year deal with the Belgian team.
Cavendish said: "After a year of being part of the successes at Team Sky I've decided to leave to join Omega Pharma-QuickStep 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."
The Manxman, who won the points classification green jersey at the 2011 Tour, claimed the world title in September 2011 and joined Team Sky a few weeks later.
He was part of the team which helped Bradley Wiggins become the first British winner of the Tour and won the final stage for a fourth successive occasion in Paris. It was his 23rd Tour stage win, taking him to fourth in the all-time list and within reach of Eddy Merckx's record haul of 34.
Cavendish was already determined to leave, believing a Team Sky bid for the yellow jersey and the green jersey in the same year was no longer on the agenda.
Having joined a British team, with many of his friends and colleagues from British Cycling, Cavendish discovered overall victories were the priority.
He suffered disappointment in the Olympic Games road race, his major objective for the season, and spoke publicly of his wish to leave Team Sky on the eve of the Tour of Britain last month, comparing the situation to a long-distance relationship.
He won the final stage of the Tour of Britain to Guildford for his 15th success of the season in his last race in a Team Sky jersey.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford paid tribute to Cavendish.
"Mark has been a true champion for Team Sky this year," Brailsford said. "It's been an honour 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.
"Cav won 15 races with us, including his first stage race, three Tour 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."
Wiggins added his tribute, with reference to July 22 in Paris when his Tour triumph was confirmed and Cavendish won the stage.
Wiggins wrote on Twitter: "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)."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep have long been favourites for Cavendish's signature and a place was made vacant on their roster when Levi Leipheimer was sacked for his role in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The Belgian squad have the desire and capability to make the Briton their Grand Tour leader and prioritise stage successes.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep have a number of riders and staff Cavendish has worked with previously, and successfully.
The Manxman won 20 Tour stages and the fabled Milan-San Remo Classic in 2009 while at HTC-Highroad, where he worked with sporting director Brian Holm, who is now at the Belgian team.
Tony Martin, the world time-trial champion, was also a team-mate at HTC-Highroad.
Cavendish knows Irishman Matt Brammeier well from his youth and Andy Fenn is a product of the British system, while he has in the past had a keen rivalry with Tom Boonen.
Cavendish is likely to share leadership responsibilities with Martin and Boonen.
Mark Cavendish factfile
1985: Born Douglas, Isle of Man on May 21.
2005: First professional victory with win on stage one of the Tour of Berlin.
March - Wins gold in the Madison at the track cycling World Championships in Los Angeles alongside Rob Hayles.
2006: March - Wins Melbourne Commonwealth Games scratch race gold medal for the Isle of Man.
September - Tour of Britain points jersey winner.
2007: May - Tour of Britain prologue, stage one, points and sprints jersey winner.
2008: March - Wins Madison gold in Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester alongside Bradley Wiggins.
May: Wins on stages four and 13 of Giro d'Italia.
July: Wins four stages of the Tour de France - stages five, eight, 12 and 13.
August: Favourite for Olympic Madison alongside Bradley Wiggins but ninth-placed finish results in Manxman suffering the ignominy of being the only member of GB's track team to leave the Laoshan Velodrome without a medal and he has a public falling-out with Wiggins.
2009: February - Wins two stages and the sprint jersey at Tour of California.
March - Victory in final stage of Tirreno Adriatico. Wins 100th Milan-San Remo Classic.
May - Becomes the first Briton to wear the pink jersey for the Giro d'Italia general classification leader after squad win opening team time-trial. Wins stages nine, 11 and 13 of the Giro.
June - Wins stage six of the Tour de Suisse to equal Chris Boardman's record for a British rider of 41 professional victories.
July - Wins six stages in all at the Tour de France, including on the Champs Elysees, but misses out on the green jersey after he is docked points for barging rival Thor Hushovd of Norway.
September - Wins first stage of the Tour of Missouri in St Louis for the 50th road win of his career.
2010: April - Victory on stage two of the Tour de Romandie, a result he celebrates with a two-fingered victory salute. He later apologises but is withdrawn from the race by his team.
June - Crashes on stage four of the Tour de Suisse - an incident which prompts a protest from other riders before the following day's fifth stage, which Cavendish completes.
July - Wins five Tour de France stages including the Champs Elysees to take his career tally to 15 but finishes 11 points behind Alessandro Petacchi in the points classification.
September - Becomes only the second Briton after Robert Millar to win stages in all three grand tours after success on stage 12 of Vuelta a Espana. Goes on to win three stages and claim points classification jersey.
2011: February 20 - Opens season account with victory in sixth and final stage of Tour of Oman.
May - Finishes second on stage two of the Giro d'Italia to take the race leader's pink jersey after HTC-Highroad won the opening team time-trial. Wins stages 10 and 12 of the Giro d'Italia.
June 10 - Awarded MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours.
July 17 - Takes fourth win for fourth successive Tour in Montpellier to move to 19 wins in four years.
July 21/22 - Docked 20 points in successive mountain stages to see green jersey lead reduced to 15 points.
July 24 - Wins final stage in Paris to make certain of the green jersey.
September 25 - Becomes first Briton to win men's road race at the World Championships.
October 11 - Joins Team Sky for the 2012 season and beyond.
December 22 - Named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
2012: February - Wins two stages of the Tour of Qatar. Wins Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
March - Wins a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.
May - Wins three stages of the Giro d'Italia, but misses out on red jersey - and winning the points classification at all three Grand Tours - by one point.
June - Wins Ster ZLM Toer, his first general classification stage race success.
July 2 - Claims first Tour stage win as world champion and for Team Sky on stage two from Vise to Tournai.
July 6 - Victorious on stage six from Epernay to Metz, taking his tally of Tour stage wins to 22, equal with Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in all-time rankings.
July 16 - Wins the 16th stage from Samatan to Pau.
July 22 - Finishes first in the final stage of the Tour, winning the leg for the fourth time.
July 28 - Finishes 29th in the Olympic Road Race.
September 16 - Finishes 45th in the Tour of Britain after winning three of the eight stages.
September 22 - Reign as Road World Champion ends as Cavendish retires midway through the 267-kilometre race in Holland.
October 18 - Team Sky announce Cavendish will ride for the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team in 2013.