The shock news that Rod Ellingworth would step down from his managerial role at Bahrain-McLaren looks like the first step that will eventually lead to his return to Ineos Grenadiers, roughly 18 months after he left the British team to run his own squad.
The news of Ellingworth’s departure from Bahrain-McLaren broke on Thursday evening, with the team stating that their now former manager’s “passion is rider development, so he has decided to move on and focus on new projects close to his heart.”
Cyclingnews has learned that Ellingworth tendered his resignation on Monday during meetings with the team’s owners and the rest of the management in Bahrain. He flew home shortly afterwards.
Four different sources have indicated to Cyclingnews that Ellingworth will return to work with Dave Brailsford and Ineos Grenadiers. However neither Ellingworth on the British team would confirm the news.
There had been links between Ellingworth and Qhubeka Assos, but a possible move to the African team is highly unlikely. Another team linked to Ellingworth has been Israel Start-Up Nation but they flatly denied any truth to the idea that Ellingworth would be coming on board when contacted by Cyclingnews. The team backed by Sylvain Adams also recently announced that Rik Verbrugghe would be joining their management from 2021 onwards.
Bahrain-McLaren managing director Milan Eržen claimed he did not know where Ellingworth would be working in 2021, but sources close to the story have told Cyclingnews that an announcement will be made next week.
“He was with us in Bahrain for the last few days and we know that he had an offer from another team,” Milan Eržen told Cyclingnews via phone.
“That’s a normal part of sport and business. I’m really glad that I had 18 months to work with him because his view on cycling is amazing. For us, I don’t think that much will change in the future.”
Eržen claimed that he had no idea where Ellingworth would work next season and added that the team would not seek an immediate replacement.
The departure represents the second high-profile management change on the team in the last 12 months after Brent Copeland saw Ellingworth take over the team in 2019. Copeland moved to Mitchelton-Scott earlier this year.
“I didn’t ask and I really don’t know where he’s going,” Eržen added.
“There was nothing wrong, and this is just cycling. It’s business. We’ve had meetings with the rest of the management and the guys and at this moment we’ll just wait. For now everything on our team will run like before. Life has taught me not to be disappointed about these things. It’s just life, it’s cycling.” Although there has yet to be an official confirmation of Ellingworth’s return to Ineos, the move makes sense on a number of levels.
The team has signed several high profile riders over the winter and they have invested in a programme to develop younger riders. At the same time, the team have never fully replaced senior directeur sportif Nicolas Portal, who tragically died earlier this year.
With former CEO Fran Millar already working on other projects, the team’s management arguably need a familiar and experienced set of hands, and Ellingworth, who worked at the team from 2010 to the spring of 2019, fits that bill.
Bahrain-McLaren had poached Ellingworth from Ineos in 2019 as the team from the Gulf looked to close the gap between themselves and their main Tour de France rivals. McLaren came on board as a sponsor and Ellingworth was given a substantial – but still not Ineos-level – budget to build the team.
Mikel Landa was signed before Ellingworth arrived, but he brought in several young riders and Wout Poels from Ineos. He signed Jack Haig from Mitchelton-Scott for the 2021. season and also changed many roles among the sports directors. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Bahrain-McLaren harder than most teams, with staff, including Ellingworth, and riders forced to take substantial pay deferrals, some of which were up to 70 per cent of salaries.
In the summer, it was announced that McLaren would step back from their financial commitments, and the vast majority of rider signings since that point have been re-hires rather than new recruits.
The team will be known as Bahrain Victorious in 2021 but Ellingworth will on longer be in charge.