Bahrain-Merida move too good for Mark Cavendish to turn down

Mark Cavendish has said he “jumped at” the chance to join Bahrain-Merida from next season as the Middle-East based team expands its partnership with automotive brand McLaren.

The team, now headed by Cavendish’s former coach Rod Ellingworth, will be rebranded as Bahrain-McLaren next year as the Woking-based company increases its role after becoming a 50 percent joint venture partner last winter.

Cavendish has signed what is understood to be a “substantial” deal to join, initially for 2020 but with both parties envisaging a longer arrangement which will see the 34-year-old finish his career with the team.

After his four-year stint with Team Dimension Data turned sour when he was controversially left out of their Tour de France squad this summer, Cavendish is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.

The 30-time Tour de France stage winner previously worked with McLaren in developing the bike which he rode to world championship glory in 2011, while ex-Team Sky coach Ellingworth set up the British Cycling academy from which he graduated as a youngster.

“Joining this team is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition for me, and is super exciting and motivating,” Cavendish said.

“You could even say a dream come true. Having worked closely with McLaren in the past, and seen the benefits of their technology and processes, this was an opportunity I jumped at.

“My relationship with Rod goes way back, and he’s been instrumental in helping me develop as a rider and a person. I can’t wait to join my new team-mates and do everything I can to help us achieve the successes I know will come.”

The move for Cavendish comes at the end of a lean spell in his career. His move to Dimension Data began well with four stage wins on the 2016 Tour, but he has not added to that tally since.

His 2017 Tour was ended on stage four by a crash, and he has since endured a long battle with the Epstein-Barr virus, which was initially misdiagnosed.

He will end the 2019 season without a victory on the road, but has looked in good form as he has enjoyed success on the track at Six Day London this week.

That event may herald a tilt at the Tokyo Olympics next year, though that is yet to be discussed with his new employers.

Phynova Six Day Cycling – Day Two – Lee Valley VeloPark
Mark Cavendish has enjoyed success at Six Day London this week (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Cavendish is joining an ambitious team, which has moved to replace former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali with the signings of Mikel Landa and Wout Poels for 2020, while they already have 29-year-old sprinter Sonny Colbrelli on their books.

“Mark’s signing completes our rider roster for 2020 and gives us the balance the team needs to win,” Ellingworth said.

“Mark is a proven champion and has a lot to contribute – both on and off the bike. Having last worked with him at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Qatar World Championships, I’ve been delighted to see that his energy and determination to succeed are greater now than ever.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to enable him to perform at his best.”

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