Cavendish confident of getting back to his best with Bahrain-McLaren

Mark Cavendish will approach the 2020 season “full of confidence” after joining the new-look Bahrain-McLaren team.

The 30-time Tour de France stage winner is without a victory since February 2018 following a long battle with the Epstein-Barr virus as well as a series of injuries, but the 34-year-old is looking forward to a fresh start amid the innovative environment of his new employers.

Bahrain-McLaren is effectively a new team, with McLaren joining what was Bahrain-Merida as a 50 per cent stakeholder, but there will be a familiar feeling for Cavendish.

His former coach and ex-Team Sky performance director Rod Ellingworth has been installed as team principal, his old sporting director Roger Hammond is also joining, while he has previously worked on development projects with McLaren, who helped design the bike on which he won the world title in 2011.

“From a personal point of view it’s nice to work with people you get on with, but I look at it from a performance point of view and I think there’s a reason all these people know each other,” Cavendish said from the dynamic surroundings of the McLaren Technology Centre.

“These people are good at what they do. I’m fortunate that I’ve worked with these guys and they are some of the hardest working and most brilliantly-minded people in cycling.

“It makes me happy, it makes me excited and I’m full of confidence.”

Cavendish is looking for a fresh start after his time with Team Dimension Data ended in frustration following the controversial decision of team principal Doug Ryder to leave him out of this year’s Tour, against the recommendation of performance director Rolf Aldag.

But in Ellingworth Cavendish has a new boss who knows him as well as anyone in the sport.

“There are very few people in the world where if I’ve really upset them they make me cower, he’s one of them and the other is my grandmother,” he said.

“That’s the best way to get the best out of someone. He’s just got this drive, he just rolls his sleeves up. It’s wicked.”

Despite his recent lean spell, Ellingworth sees Cavendish as a sound investment, convinced the veteran sprinter still has plenty left to give and remains capable of matching Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour stage victories.

The first target, however, is simply to register another win for a rider Ellingworth said is “not particularly old, just more experienced”.

“I think that’s the marker,” Ellingworth said. “How do we get back to winning a bike race? And we keep going until we do. I said to him it doesn’t matter what level, whether it’s World Tour or non-World Tour, it’s just winning a bike race and we keep going until we do.

“Any race would be a marker and then we go from there. For someone like him it’s about confidence and building on that confidence, building the team confidence. That’s the focus.”

Cavendish’s non-selection for the Tour in July effectively signalled the end of his four-year stint at Dimension Data – now known as NTT Pro Cycling – but Ellingworth said no promises have been made about the 2020 edition.

Bahrain-McLaren will go to France looking to challenge for the yellow jersey, but that plan could include Cavendish for the sprints if he has the form.

“I don’t see why not,” Ellingworth added. “We would all love to see him at the Tour. From day one of the conversations with Mark it’s all about you have got to go to the Tour and respect the race with the best team you can possibly put on the line and we don’t underestimate that at all.

“If he is good enough and he’s winning then absolutely.”