Marcel Kittel is leaving Quick Step Floors after signing a two-year deal with Katusha-Alpecin. Meanwhile, Italiian sprinter Elia Viviani is leaving Team Sky a year early and will be joining Quick Step Floors.
Last month, the 29-year-old German sprinter Kittel won five stages at the Tour de France but was forced to abandon on Stage 17 while in the green points jersey.
Despite proving himself the best sprinter in the race, his departure from Quick Step Floors had been widely expected following the emergence of his team mate Fernando Gaviria, who is expected to make his Tour de France debut next year.
The Colombian, aged just 22, made his Grand Tour debut in May, winning four stages and the points classification at the Giro d’Italia.
Viviani, meanwhile, had also been thought highly likely to leave Team Sky and was reported to be extremely unhappy after he was not selected for his home Grand Tour this season.
While the Belgian UCI WorldTour team is perhaps a surprising destination for him, it's not hard to see him spearheading its challenge at next year's Giro while Gaviria focuses on the Tour.
Before joining Quick Step-Floors, Kittel raced for Giant-Alpecin and his move to Katusha-Alpecin not only reunites him with the German haircare brand following its switch in sponsored teams, but will also see him ride a bike from a brand originating in his home country – Canyon.
Kittel, who has also won stages at the Giro and Vuelta and who has been victorious five times in the Scheldeprijs, said: “I'm really looking forward to a new challenge in new colours. For me, this moment is exciting.
With this step, I also hope to get new inspiration. I think, I find all the requirements in the team that I need to be strong in the sprint finals. I saw that the sprint train is functioning very well.
“Team Katusha Alpecin has undergone a major change in recent years,” he continued.
“I've been watching these changes for a long time and I think it's good. That is why I am looking forward to being part of the team and share the direction they are headed.
“Team spirit has always been important to me and for this reason also I've become a pro cyclist,” Kittel said.
The move reunites him with his compatriot and former Quick Step Floors team mate, Tony Martin, which he said was “the little icing on the cake.”
Kittel added: “He gave me good insight into the team in my decision-making process. His opinion about the team was of course important to me."
Katusha-Alpecin had a disappointing Tour de France, with Alexander Kristoff misfiring in the sprint stages, and it is the Norwegian’s departure for UAE Team Emirates that creates the space for Kittel to fill.
The team’s general manager, José Azevedo, commented: “We are very happy to have Marcel in the team. We can say that he is at the moment the best sprinter in the world.
“He showed this quite impressively in the Tour de France where he won five stages. He will be one of our most important riders and can look forward to strong team support.
“We will try to support him in the best possible way to ensure that he can continue his successful results,” he added.
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