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New super-charged team Bahrain-McLaren, with the help of its motorsport sponsor, says it is capable of taking on Team Ineos as soon as 2020.
The team unveiled its orange and red jersey Monday at the Woking headquarters in England with Team Ineos’s former top coach and sports director, Rod Ellingworth now at the helm. His charges for the coming season include Wout Poels, Mikel Landa, and Mark Cavendish– all former Team Sky/Ineos riders at some point in their careers.
“I think from the outset, yes, we’re capable of taking them [Ineos] on,” Ellingworth said.
“It’s about getting your key riders on the line in good condition and good health and if we’re in that situation then we stand every chance.
“I see us as a thriving new team with lots of energy and we’re not going to mess around. I don’t see us as an underdog.”
Ellingworth took the job leading Team Bahrain-McLaren after coaching the Under 23 British Academy and 10 years with Team Sky, now Ineos. He continues the Bahrain-Merida team that began three years ago with star rider Vincenzo Nibali, who along with Dylan Teuns helped the team win two stages at the 2019 Tour de France. Nibali will be transferring to Trek-Segafredo for 2020.
It is hard to see the team as an underdog given its launch at the massive McLaren Technology Center in Woking, a base used to power its cars to Formula One titles over the years.
“You look at this building, there’s no other team that has a center like this, its own development hub,” Ellingworth said.
“We’re already up and running, we’ve started projects, we’re on our hands and knees working at this minute and it’s pretty exciting. It’s something no other team has at the same sort of level.”
Every team needs performance input if it wants to compete in the modern era. Ineos is not the only team spending a good chunk of its budget to support its riders towards success. This week, Deceuninck-Quick-Step sent star riders including young Remco Evenepoel to California to spend time in Specialized’s wind tunnel.
McLaren, however, offers ‘free’ equipment and technology that can be adapted to cyclists so they can manage themselves alongside the improvements in material technology and aerodynamics. The team’s technical director, Duncan Bradley said, “Together we believe that there is a disruptive opportunity for us to take on the might of very, very successful competitors.”
Ellingworth and the team must prove themselves, however. Wout Poels won Liège-Bastogne-Liège but has been mostly a super helper in the last years. Landa has yet to step out of the shadow of his teammates to conquer a grand tour. And Mark Cavendish has been struggling for the last couple of years.
However, even Cavendish believes that McLaren’s support can make a difference going ahead into 2020 and beyond. “These people are good at what they do,” Cavendish said. “I’m excited and full of confidence.”