Chris Froome to leave Team Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will leave Team Ineos at the end of the season and former teammates Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal will becomes his biggest rivals
Froome, Britain's most successful rider, won the Tour de France four times in five years from 2013 in the colours of Team Sky, which last year became Team Ineos.
Team Ineos boss Dave Brailsford hailed 35-year-old Froome as a "great champion" but said it was the right time to part ways.
He said Froome was keen to have sole team leadership but Team Ineos, with fellow Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in their ranks, were unable to give that guarantee.
"Chris's current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it," Brailsford said.
"We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the team to focus on the season ahead."
Kenya-born Froome said: "It has been a phenomenal decade with the team. We have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories.
"I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos."
Later on Thursday, Israel Start-Up Nation tweeted: "Welcome to our family, CHRIS FROOME!"
After winning the Vuelta a Espana in 2017 and the Giro d'Italia in 2018 Froome held all three Grand Tours but his star has since waned.
He was seriously injured when he crashed at the Criterium de Dauphine in June 2019 and spent months in rehabilitation, missing that year's Tour de France.
Froome's team-mate Thomas emerged as the 2018 winner of the Tour while Colombian protege Bernal claimed the 2019 title.
He only returned fully to the saddle in February this year at the UAE Tour, which was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this year, Froome said his hunger for a fifth or even sixth Tour de France victory remained undiminished.
"My dream is to retire having won more Tour de Frances than any other rider," he told French daily L'Equipe.
He needs one more to equal Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, who have all won it five times.
This year's Tour, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, is set to be raced from August 29 to September 20.
Brailsford has overseen seven Tour de France wins with Team Sky and Team Ineos, with Bradley Wiggins claiming the first one in 2012.
Deep-pocketed Team Sky, backed by Rupert Murdoch's media empire, were known for Brailsford's meticulous and innovative application of "marginal gains", the theory that many small advantages in areas as diverse as wind resistance, diet and sleep quality can add up to a significant improvement in performance.
However, their image was clouded in controversy over so-called therapeutic use exemptions, after a damning British parliamentary report said the team crossed an "ethical line" by using the loophole to administer drugs to enhance performance.
Sky were caught in a long-running doping controversy that began when Froome returned an adverse doping test, for elevated levels of the asthma medication salbutamol, on his way to victory in the Vuelta a Espana in 2017. He was cleared 10 months later.
Froome said that during the 2015 Tour de France a cup of urine was thrown at him following accusations he was doping. He has always maintained he is a clean rider.
Team Sky became Team Ineos last year to reflect their new sponsor, the chemicals giant owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.
The team have had plenty of detractors within cycling for tactics that many believe stifle racing.
Their superior budget allowed them to employ riders who would be leaders elsewhere in a support capacity and effectively shut down attacks in the biggest races, something that has proved unpopular with many, particularly in the Tour de France.
His old team will be his biggest rival!
With with fellow Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in Team Ineos ranks, they will then become is biggest rival and will need to build a strong team around him to contest a 5th Tour de France win.