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2020 Team Preview: Bahrain McLaren

Bahrain-McLaren Croatia training camp 2019
Bahrain-McLaren at their pre-season training camp in Hvar, Croatia (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Who?

Heading into their fourth year since foundation, Bahrain McLaren undergoes a major revamp for the 2020 season. Big names are on the incoming and outgoing lists, while there's also a new sponsor, new kit and new colours.

The team was formed in 2017, immdiately bringing  the four-time Grand Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali on board. Since then, the team has amassed three Grand Tour podiums, five stage wins, and, courtesy of Nibali, victories at Il Lombardia and Milan-San Remo. The Italian leaves for Trek-Segafredo for 2020, but incoming names like Mikel Landa, Mark Cavendish and Wout Poels are hoped to fill the void.

Manager: Brent Copeland / Rod Ellingworth

Squad size: 28 riders

Average age: 28.3

How did they fare in 2019?

Wins: 16

WorldTour ranking: 14

With 16 wins in 2019, including seven at WorldTour level, Bahrain-Merida ranked among the bottom half of the top-ranked teams this season.

Vincenzo Nibali gave the team a strong farewell campaign, taking second at the Giro d'Italia and a stage win at Val Thorens at the Tour de France. Earlier in the race, Dylan Teuns won the opening summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles.

Youngster Mark Padun was the team's only stage race winner, triumphing at Adriatica Ionica Race and should be one to watch going forward.

Low points included Rohan Dennis' abrupt Tour abandon, and Slovenian rider Kristijan Koren getting caught in Operation Aderlass doping scandal.

Key riders

Mikel Landa – A direct replacement for Nibali, the Spaniard will finally be free to take sole Grand Tour leadership, having spent the past six years as one among three or even four GT leaders. Taking on the Tour de France next season, the pressure will be on to prove he can at least repeat his 2015 Giro podium spot.

Dylan Teuns – With his climbing chops improving every season, the Belgian can build on his Tour and Dauphiné stage wins in 2020. He'll also target the Ardennes Classics, having finished third at La Flèche Wallonne a few years back.

Wout Poels – Like Landa another rider who will enjoy a freer role next season, the Dutchman is targeting a first Grand Tour stage win. The 2016 Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner will target the Ardennes once again, as well as having a free role at the Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish – After a disappointing, injury-hit few seasons, the sprinter is looking to rejuvenate his career with a new team. With 48 career Grand Tour stage wins under his belt, he'll be hoping that a reunion with Rod Ellingworth helps him back to winning ways, and is also attempting to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Team Bahrain McLaren, Mark Cavendish and Mikel Landa

Mark Cavendish and Mikel Landa at the Bahrain McLaren team presentation in Woking (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Strengths

In theory, Bahrain McLaren have a team that can win anywhere, with a squad featuring riders fit for every terrain. Mikel Landa is the big name, a proven Grand Tour contender to replace the outgoing Vincenzo Nibali. He'll get the chance – finally – to take sole leadership of a team.

In Sonny Colbrelli, Iván García Cortina, Phil Bauhaus, and a fit Mark Cavendish – who is reunited with Rod Ellingworth – the team has plenty of fastmen for flat days and tougher run-ins. Wout Poels and Dylan Teuns can form a nice Ardennes duo, and will stage hunt as well alongside Pello Bilbao. Then there's a burgeoning cobbled team in the form of Marco Haller, Heinrich Haussler and Matej Mohorič.

Finally, the team has also recruited a number of promising youngsters in the forms of Santiago Buitrago, Alfred Wright and Kevin Inkelaar. The trio join Mark Padun and Stephen Williams as the young core going forward.

The main man, though, is Landa. After six years of shared leadership at Astana, Sky and Movistar, the Basque gets his chance at the age of 30. He's already proven he can challenge for the top spots, but can he put it all together over three weeks? We'll find out in July.

Weaknesses

While there's seemingly strength in every area, there's also a danger that the team is trying to do too much. Competing ­– and succeeding – in the Grand Tours, the sprints, the cobbled and Ardennes Classics while also managing to develop a cadre of young riders is a feat that no team has managed to achieve in recent years.

It will take quite something for Bahrain McLaren to achieve all that, but then again, they don't need to do it all.

Mark Cavendish has endured a tough couple of seasons, and while there's hope that 2020 will see a turnaround for him, if it doesn't come then there aren't too many consistent winners on the team.

A lot will ride on Landa being able to take that next step at the Tour de France. In seven months, we'll finally see how he fares without two or three other Grand Tour leaders in the same squad. Has he already reached the peak of his abilities, or is there more to be wrung out of the 30-year-old?

With Landa, Teuns, Colbrelli, Cavendish, Bilbao and Poels in the team, there'll be wins, that's for sure. But whether they'll match the team's own ambitions is yet to be seen.

Verdict

A strong squad with big ambitions, Bahrain McLaren's fourth year is the start of a new era at the team. There'll be successes, but they still look at step behind the likes of Ineos and Deceuninck-QuickStep.

2020 Line-up

Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Phil Bauhaus (Ger), Pello Bilbao (Spa), Grega Bole (Slo), Santiago Buitrago (Col), Eros Capecchi (Ita), Damiano Caruso (Ita), Mark Cavendish (GBr), Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Scott Davies (GBr), Chun Kai Feng (Tai), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Marco Haller (Aut), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Kevin Inkelaar (Ned), Mikel Landa (Spa), Matej Mohorič (Slo), Domen Novak (Slo), Mark Padun (Ukr), Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut), Luka Pibernik (Slo), Wout Poels (Ned), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Jan Tratnik (Slo), Rafael Valls (Spa), Stephen Williams, Alfred Wright (GBr)