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Neil Stephens: I joined Bahrain McLaren because of Rod Ellingworth

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 13: Start / Jasper Philipsen of Belgium and UAE Team Emirates / Neil Stephens of Australia sport-director UAE Team Emirates / during the 2019 Tour Down Under Classic a 1 hour + 1 lap of 1,7km race from Adelaide to Adelaide / TDU / on January 13, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
Neil Stephens with Jasper Philipsen in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The repercussions of Rod Ellingworth’s shock decision to leave Bahrain McLaren with immediate effect are still being felt with Neil Stephens admitting that he joined the team from UAE Team Emirates in order to work with the now-former team principal. 

Ellingworth tendered his resignation from Bahrain McLaren last Monday after talks in Bahrain with the team management. His formal departure was announced three days later with Cyclingnews well informed that Ellingworth has already decided on his next role.

Ellingworth spent close to 18 months at the team and was instrumental in their success this year that included fourth overall in the Tour de France with Mikel Landa. He was also integral in bringing riders like Jack Haig to the team for next year while he also agreed to bring Neil Stephens on board as a directeur sportif during the Vuelta a España.

“It seems a bit crazy to be walking away from the team that’s just won the Tour de France but the attraction of going to work with Rod was stronger than staying with the team that I was with,” Stephens told Cyclingnews on Monday morning. 

“It was because of Rod basically that I joined, which seems a bit funny at the moment. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Rod and I just chatted with him and I’ve really admired what he’s done in the past with Sky. I saw what he was doing at Bahrain and I was looking forward to working with him. It’s just a bit of a funny situation that he’s now left.” 

Stephens was in no way bitter over how the last few days have panned out and he told Cyclingnews that he both respected Ellingworth’s decision and that he was excited to get to know his new colleagues.

Bahrain McLaren have yet to announce whether Ellingworth will be directly replaced but General Manager Milan Erzen told Cyclingnews that no decision would be rushed and that some of Ellingworth’s duties would be split between the remaining staff on the team. 

“I think the most important thing is that he’s making a decision that he thinks is correct. I’ve got to get re-direction I suppose and I’ve been making contact with other people on the team. I’ve had very little contact with the rest of the team, most of it was with Rod, and I’ve been working out how things are going to pan out next year.”

“I think that limbo is a bit of a strong statement. First thing is that Rod is making a decision that’s right for him. I don’t think that limbo sums it up. I was very much looking forward to working with Rod and that’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to working with the rest of the team.

“It’s a really good roster and the thing that attracted me was that although they’re an established team they’re very much a developing squad. It’s a team that has been going from strength to strength and in each race they’ve tried to do a better job. That’s where I see my strengths laying, in that sort of team.” 

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.