Team principal questions Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France future

Bahrain-McLaren team principal Rod Ellingworth has admitted it is “hard to say” whether Mark Cavendish will race at the Tour de France again.

Cavendish, whose 30 career Tour stage wins put him second only to Eddy Merckx’s 34, was left off the team’s roster for this year’s race, with the Manxman admitting he was not ready to compete after a season heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It meant the 35-year-old missed out on the Tour for a second year in a row, and Ellingworth said there were no guarantees he would return.

Bahrain-McLaren Cycling Team Launch – McLaren Technology Centre
Bahrain-McLaren Cycling Team Launch – McLaren Technology Centre

“It’s hard to say,” Ellingworth said. “I think unfortunately for him, this situation we’ve found ourselves in, not racing, it went against him.

“If you’ve spent two years off the bike having lots of problems you need a consistent period of time to get yourself back to a decent level.”

Cavendish, who was controversially left out of the Team Dimension Data squad last summer after battling his way back from illness and injury, admitted he had needed more racing in his legs to be ready for the Tour and Ellingworth said lockdown training had not suited him.

“I think as we all know with Mark, he’s a bike racer, he’s not particularly into the training, he loves racing,” Ellingworth said.

“I think he was at a bit of a disadvantage in that sense, like many other riders, just with the issues that he had. He just needed some consistent racing. So I don’t know, I think time will tell.

My thoughts and feelings on wishing @MikelLandaMeana & @BahrainMcLaren a safe & successful @LeTour x 🙏

— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) August 21, 2020

“I think he was quite rightfully upfront to say he wasn’t ready for this year’s Tour, and we’ll keep working. That’s what he’s doing now, he’s at home working and looking forward to the other races. Time will tell.”

When the Tour squad was announced last week, Cavendish followed it with a video on social media in which he said: “I just don’t feel ready for the Tour de France.”

He signed a one-year deal when he joined the Bahrain-McLaren squad this winter, but is continuing to plan for the future into next season.

In his video last week, Cavendish said: “I’m super-excited for the rest of the year. We’ve got some good goals and some good races lined up and I’m looking forward to using it to build into a big year next year too.”

Mark Cavendish file photo
Mark Cavendish file photo

In the absence of Cavendish, Bahrain-McLaren will instead target the battle for the yellow jersey as they back Mikel Landa, pitting Ellingworth against his old boss Sir Dave Brailsford as they look to break the Sky/Ineos stranglehold on the Tour.

This week the team announced McLaren would end their title sponsorship of the team at the end of the season, though the team is continuing to plan long-term and on Thursday announced the signing of Jack Haig on a three-year contract.