Evaluating Bahrain McLaren's Tour de France long list

13 riders are vying for 8 spots in Bahrain McLaren's Tour team (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

After casting our eye over Team Ineos' long list for the Tour de France, this time we look at Bahrain McLaren, where we understand there are 13 riders vying for selection. 

Mikel Landa, signed from Movistar at the turn of the year, has already been confirmed as the team leader, bidding for the overall title on a route that seems well suited to his climbing abilities.

There are a number of other riders who appear to be shoo-ins, but also a few riders who represent something of a headache for Rod Ellingworth and his coaches. Chief among them is new signing Mark Cavendish, winner of 30 Tour stages but without a victory in two and a half years. 

With eight spots available, five riders on this list face disappointment, and we've taken a look at their credentials.

Mikel Landa

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 4
  • Top result: 4th overall, 2017

Landa is Bahrain McLaren's out-and-out leader for the Tour

Landa is Bahrain McLaren's out-and-out leader for the Tour (Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite a lack of racing this year, Landa has still chalked up an action-packed season with a competitive showing in Ruta del Sol, a road incident that involved being hit by a car, and rumours that Chris Froome might be joining him at Bahrain next season. The latter is now off the table, and his fitness is regained, meaning that the Basque rider at least has a clear run at this year's Tour de France. 

Ironically, McLaren’s financial woes might be the very factor that curtail the team’s spending in the transfer market this summer, therefore giving Landa attempts at Tour glory in 2020 and 2021.

However, it it feels as though everything truly hinges on this one shot. He’s 30 now, and will never get more support with a team fully behind his objectives.

Wout Poels

  • Age: 32
  • Tours raced: 7
  • Top result: 26th overall, 2019

It was the right time for Poels and Ineos to part ways at the end of 2019. The Dutchman needed a fresh challenge if he wanted to have his own opportunities in stage races, while the British team had a crop of young talent that required blooding in Grand Tours. A move to Bahrain made complete sense and Poels will be a valuable ally for Landa when it comes to the high mountains. 

If Plan A falls by the way side, Poels is also a contender for a mountain stage win, as his win in the Dauphiné proved last year. If the team are serious about supporting Landa, then Poels must head to France.

Dylan Teuns

  • Age: 28
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Top result: 44th overall with 1 stage win, 2019

Dylan Teuns (Bahrain McLaren)

Teuns can offer support for Landa plus potential stage wins (Image credit: Betttini Photo)

The Belgian has solidly built a reputation as one of the most consistent performers in the WorldTour over the last few seasons. Rides in the Dauphiné and Tour last year resulted in stage wins – he even lead the Dauphiné – and a well-earned 12th overall in the Vuelta illustrated both his maturity and the fact that he would be a strong worker for Landa in the mountains. 

Regardless of Landa's credentials, or how he pans out in the Tour, Teuns offers alternatives that any WorldTour team would envy.

Damiano Caruso

  • Age: 32
  • Tours raced: 5
  • Top result: 11th overall, 2017

The Italian is a massively underrated asset who only seems to be truly appreciated by those lucky enough to see his power and consistency at first-hand. 

Caruso is likely to be Landa's leading light in the mountains throughout the Tour but he will also offer solid assistance in the medium mountain terrain, while his experience will key in ensuring that Landa is attentive during the exact moments he typically switches off in.

The Italian is also one of five riders on the team who could finish in the top-20, and, as a result, Bahrain would be a strong bet for the teams classification.

Pello Bilbao

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Top result: 54th overall, 2019

Astana's Pello Bilbao wins stage 20 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia ahead of Movistar's Mikel Landa. The two riders will be teammates at Bahrain-Merida in 2020

Bilbao winning stage 20 of the 2019 Giro d'Italia ahead of Landa. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The former Astana rider has been on the Tour long list since the start of the season and it's hard to see him not making the cut in August. He was sixth in the Giro only a couple of years ago and won two mountain stages last year before almost coming away with a Tour stage a few months later at Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

At some point he deserves his own shot at Grand Tour leadership, either in the Giro or the Vuelta, but that looks to be on hold for now.

Matej Mohorič

  • Age: 25
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Top result: 119th overall, 2019

Mohorič, like Teuns, can provide cover if Landa loses time early on and drops out of the GC picture. The Slovenian is a multi-tasker who can dovetail his prowess on the flats with an ability to ride on the front in the middle-sized mountain stages. 

The Slovenian is also an excellent wheel to follow when the wind picks up or the weather takes a turn for the worse. Along with Marco Haller, he will be charged with protecting Landa on the flat.

Mark Cavendish

  • Age: 35
  • Tours raced: 12
  • Top result: 6 stage wins, 2009

Rod Ellingworth and Mark Cavendish at the Saudi Tour

Ellingworth has told Cavendish he needs to wins races to justify a place in the Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the British rider of the chance to show whether he could compete in sprints this year, but that can't entirely gloss over the fact that Cavendish hasn't won a bike race since the start of 2018.

Any sympathy for Bahrain McLaren's dilemma over whether to select Cavendish is also nullified by the fact that they created this situation themselves by signing him in the first place. 

Perhaps the pandemic will bring the competition down a notch; perhaps the extra few months on the sidelines will have helped Cavendish rediscover his mojo; and perhaps he can roll back the years and add to his truly jaw-dropping Tour record. He needs racing though, and he needs it fast if he's to justify a spot.

Sonny Colbrelli

  • Age: 30
  • Tours raced: 3
  • Top result: 2nd on stage 5, 2018

There's no point in taking Colbrelli and Cavendish to the Tour and the Italian has a good shout for justifying a place ahead of the British sprinter. He's never won a Grand Tour stage but he's been knocking on the door and under the right circumstances he could pull off a surprise. 

If the Italian is earmarked for the Classics then a Tour de France spot also makes sense as he'll need three weeks of solid racing if he's to reach his best form later in the compressed season.

Marco Haller

  • Age: 29
  • Tours raced: 4
  • Top result: 126th overall, 2015

Marco Haller is excited to have joined Bahrain McLaren for 2020 following eight seasons at Katusha

Haller would be a dependable pair of hands (Image credit: Ellis Bacon)

Any reader unclear as to how important Haller can be need only to watch last year's Paris-Roubaix, when he helped to soften up the opposition for Nils Politt to exploit. The Austrian is similar to countryman Bernhard Eisel, in that he can fill in on the flats, act as a road captain and even kickstart a lead-out train.

He doesn’t have Eisel’s experience just yet but he's a class act that too often at Katusha – especially in later years – simply lacked a team leader who could finish off his fine work.

Heinrich Haussler

  • Age: 36
  • Tours raced: 5
  • Top result: 1 stage win, 2009

The Australian is far from a certainty for a Tour de France spot but he is rightfully in the conversation when it comes to final selection of eight riders. Like Haller, he can organize a team on the flat, and his kick is probably better than the Austrian when it comes to setting up sprints.

Haussler can also use the race to prepare for the Classics but his selection may well come down to whether the team wants another climber or if they think that Haller, Mohorič, and Colbrelli are enough for the flat roads.

Ivan García Cortina

  • Age: 24
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Top result: 114th overall, 2019

Bahrain McLaren Spanish rider Ivan Garcia Cortina L celebrates as he crosses the finish line at the end of the 2125 km 3rd stage of the 78th Paris Nice cycling race stage between ChalettesurLoing and La Chatre on March 10 2020 Photo by Alain JOCARD AFP Photo by ALAIN JOCARDAFP via Getty Images

Cortina has emerged as one of the brightest young talents (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Spaniard was in fine fettle at the start of the year with a win and a second place in Paris-Nice - not a bad return considering that he missed Opening Weekend due to illness. He also started and finished his Tour debut last year but he remains relatively untested in Grand Tours in comparison to many on this list. 

There are several better climbers on this list, and more experienced when it comes to stage racing and protecting leaders, which leaves Cortina in the 'nice to have' bracket rather than the essential one. That position may well suit him, in that he can go to the Giro or Vuelta and simply target stage wins, rather than head to the Tour and be dragged in different directions.

Eros Capecchi

  • Age: 34
  • Tours raced: 1
  • Top result: 83rd overall, 2010

The 34-year-old's one and only Tour de France ride came a decade ago but he has a huge amount of Grand Tour experience, with 11 Giros and six Vueltas under his belt.

A dependable climber, Capecchi has raced for some of the biggest names in the sport but he was picked up from QuickStep in the winter and Bahrain McLaren clearly see the need for a rider with his skillset. 

Although he’s on the long list, it feels as though Capecchi is on the periphery of the Tour squad, and a smarter solution might be to send him to the Giro and use his experience to guide home a number of younger riders.

Rafael Valls

  • Age: 32
  • Tours raced: 4
  • Top result: 41st overall, 2012

Another rider who was pencilled in for the Tour de France earlier in the season, but his record in Grand Tours is somewhat patchy. He didn’t get a ride in any three-week races in 2016, 2017 or 2019, and the one Grand Tour he has started since 2015 ended with a DNF.

In fact, he’s only finished four of the nine Grand Tours he's started and there are frankly better climbers on this list. Valls is a fine rider in his own right but he may find himself switched to another Grand Tour for this year.

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