Mark Cavendish has opted out of the Tour Down Under and is set to start the 2013 season with Omega Pharma-Quick Step at February’s Tour of Qatar.
The 27-year-old could race alongside new teammate and defending champion Tom Boonen at the February 3-8 stage race in a differing early season schedule.
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Cavendish is tentatively down to compete at the Volta ao Algarve (February 13-17) as well as the March 3-10 Paris-Nice, which he has never started.
The former road world champion joins Omega Pharma-Quick Step on a three-year deal having negotiated a free release from Sky after one season.
The lone transfer will see Cavendish reunite with several former HTC-Highroad colleagues including double time trial world champion Tony Martin, sports director Brian Holm as well as Rolf Aldag.
Cavendish won two stages at Qatar this year, which doubled as his first race with Sky and in the rainbow jersey. He was luckless in the following Tour of Oman and is unlikely to return with the course rumoured to be more difficult.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step concluded its December training camp in Majorca, Spain this week. Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders champion, Boonen was last month hospitalized for a severe intestinal infection, and missed a team building exercise in Slovakia, but was in Spain.
Peter Velits as well as Andy Fenn headline the team set for the Tour Down Under in Australia next month.
This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the December 13 Cycling Weekly magazine