Ellingworth says Bahrain McLaren negotiations with Cavendish 'continuing'

British Mark Cavendish of BahrainMerida pictured at stage 2 of the UAE Tour 2020 cycling race 168km from Hatta to Hatta Dam in Dubai United Arab Emirates Monday 24 February 2020 This years edition is taking place from 23 February to 29 February BELGA PHOTO YUZURU SUNADA FRANCE OUT Photo by YUZURU SUNADABELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Bahrain McLaren manager Rod Ellingworth has revealed that negotiations between Mark Cavendish and his current team over whether the veteran sprinter will continue in the squad in 2021 are still ongoing.

Cavendish, 35, is set to take part in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, likely in a support role, before leading the team at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday – a race he has won several times in the past and at which he had his breakthrough victory in 2007.

Cavendish signed with Bahrain McLaren at the start of the year in a bid to reboot his career but has struggled, so far, to produce major results.

Speaking to reporters at the start of stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia, and asked about Cavendish's future with the squad, Ellingworth said, "We're still working out the roster for next year. We're working on it."

Asked if deadlines have been set to decide on whether Cavendish will continue with the team, and if he expected Cavendish would race on into 2021, Ellingworth said, "There's so much happening with teams folding and so on, so we're keeping everything open at the moment. But I'm sure he's going to stay racing, yeah."

Ellingworth also confirmed that another star Bahrain McLaren rider, Mikel Landa, will not be leading the team at the upcoming Vuelta a España, as had been rumoured in some quarters.

"We've got a few good options: Matej [Mohoric] will go, Wout [Poels] will go, potentially [2019 Vuelta leader] Dylan Teuns. It's a decent group with some of the young guys as well. But it's not a full Grand Tour, so it'll maybe give the young guys an opportunity. But Mikel was never planning to ride the Vuelta."

As for the Giro d'Italia, where Pello Bilbao is lying second overall, Ellingworth was confident about the Basque rider's chances.

"We've got a good group here, and not many of these guys have raced much together, so every day they're only going to get better. Pello is feeling really good, and we came here with a real open attitude, and we appreciated that it was a hard turnaround for him after doing the Tour.

"So we're taking it on the day by day, and his first objective is to stay up on GC and try to win the bike race if he can."

Ellingworth said he had nothing but praise for Bilbao's attitude to the Giro, describing it as "world-class – 10 out of 10".

"If he comes off GC, it won't be because he's just given up – it'll be because he's mentally burned out," he said. "But at the moment he's really enjoying it all, and enjoying the race."

Ellingworth admitted that the ongoing and steadily worsening COVID-19 situation, with ongoing shutdowns and the speculation over whether the Giro would finish, made for considerable added stress. And he argued that under such circumstances, staying focused – as Bilbao was doing – was even more important than usual.

"I think there's mental fatigue with this season, in terms of people feeling a little bit like it's long, for everybody, even if they haven't done much racing. Normally, they'd be tired because they've done the whole season, but at the moment it just feels very strange.

"In terms of where we're at in the season, we're doing well. [But] I've just had a meeting with the riders, and with everything going off at the moment, I've told them that the team that stays strong mentally, that's the team that's going to win."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.