Mark Cavendish leaves Sky and signs three year deal with Omega Pharma Quick-Step

Manx missile to be focus of Belgian team for next three years

by Tony Farrelly   October 18, 2012  

Giro 2012 S2 Mark Cavendish wins (picture Gian Mattia D'Alberto:LaPresse:RCS Sport)

Mark Cavendish is to leave Team Sky and will ride for Omega Pharma Quick-Step (OPQS) next year. The not unexpected announcement was made this afternoon on (and you'd think they'd know).

Cavendish has apparently signed a three year deal with the Belgian outfit and will become the main focus of the team for the coming seasons. Cavendish will have spent only one year at Team Sky during that time he won 15 races and took the first overall stage race win of his career a the Ster ZLM Tour last June.

Sky team principal, Dave Brailsford, paid tribute to his soon to be ex-rider in a statement announcing Cavendish's exit:

"Mark has been a true champion for Team Sky this year.

“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.

“Mark also gets what Team Sky stands for and has been a real ambassador, on and off the bike, helping to inspire more people to ride and to love this sport.

“We all wish Mark the very best with his future ambitions in a new team and as British rider.”

The move to OPQS will mean that Cavendish will be backed by a team aiming to secure him the Green Jersey at next year's Tour de France. With the 2014 edition of the Tour starting with a racing stage - strongly tipped to be set-up for a bunch sprint - it also holds up the intriguing prospect that Cavendish may get to join the select band of riders who have worn the leader's jersey in all three grand tours.

It is not as yet clear whether Bernie Eisel will also be leaving Sky to join Cavendish on his new team - the Austrian rider has been described by Cavendish as his "guardian angel" and the two are something of a double act with Eisel's job to get Cavendish to the business end of the stage without mishap - something he successfully did at HTC before joining Team Sky.

Even if Eisel doesn't join him at OPQS, Cavendish certainly won't be without familiar faces around him - Matt Brammeir, Gerald Ciolek, Bert Grabsch, Tony Martin, Frantisek Rabon, Martin Velits, Peter Velits and Brian Holm, the OPQS DS, were all part of the T-Mobile/HTC Columbia set-up while Cavendish was there, and were all on the 2012 OPQS roster.

Given the resources at their disposal it seem likely that the OPQS strategy for 2013 will be to attack the classics with a team built around Tom Boonen - who was in blistering form last spring - and then back Cavendish to add to his total of 23 Tour de France stage wins and take the Tour's green jersey for the points classification.

This year Cavendish sacrificed his green jersey hopes to ride for the team and to put Bradley Wiggins in the yellow jersey. While Cavendish still managed to pick up some notable stage wins along the way - including a fourth win in a row on the Champs Elysees - it became apparent that this was not a situation that would satisfy the Manx Missile in future editions of the race.

Team Sky though were clearly set up as a a team riding to win the general classification and it was made clear by team boss Brailsford during the race that the overall would continue to be Sky's focus in coming years.

Given that situation it was only a matter of time before Cavendish left and the surprise was not that rumours of his imminent departure began to issue from both the rider and the team, but that they did so even before the Tour de France had ended and ahead of the Olympic road race - which some observers felt was the real reason Cavendish joined the British team in the first place.

It is to both the Sky management and Cavendish's credit that his exit from the team has been handled in such an amicable and business-like manner.

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Hope Boonen still gets a look in.

JoeyL's picture

posted by JoeyL [32 posts]
18th October 2012 - 15:34


Same, hope he's not leadout man for the rest of his career. Worried

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
18th October 2012 - 15:44


I think Cav for points in tours and Tom for the classics tbh.

posted by Super Domestique [1686 posts]
18th October 2012 - 15:48


Yep I think youre right


teamrocket13's picture

posted by teamrocket13 [80 posts]
18th October 2012 - 16:21


14 victories including 3 TdF stages an a GC prize, and the indy have the cheek to call it a disappointing season.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3689 posts]
18th October 2012 - 16:34


Boonen was never the best out and out sprinter, Cav gives an other angle in that perspective.
Lead Out probably be Chava, Martin, Cataldo, Grabsch, Devenyns and two others, who knows if Boonen will take on the GT's or not!

posted by OmegaPharmaSlow... [9 posts]
18th October 2012 - 17:17


Will Tom get a sniff of the line (sorry, couldn't resist) after Cav's arrival?

posted by Sadly Biggins [271 posts]
18th October 2012 - 17:36


Thought for a minute he'd signed up for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
18th October 2012 - 19:10


Sadly Biggins, you are my new idol. Must have been odd for Tommekke to see someone sign on the line, not sniff it.

posted by OmegaPharmaSlow... [9 posts]
18th October 2012 - 20:02


More exits from SKY to OFQ me thinks..............

Brummmie's picture

posted by Brummmie [56 posts]
19th October 2012 - 0:25


with rabobank's problems

will renshaw go back to OPQS

wanted to give it a go on his own, fair enough. but it hasn't worked and OPQS need one or two fast leadout men.

posted by leortp [70 posts]
19th October 2012 - 9:42


Leo> Renshaw never rode for OPQS so can't 'go back' to them.

It would be great to see him reunited with Cav, but I think their split was pretty acrimonious and that door has probably closed on him.

Cheers M
“Racing Is Life. Anything That Happens Before or After is Just Waiting.”

Morpheus00's picture

posted by Morpheus00 [41 posts]
20th October 2012 - 20:49