Team Sky founding member Rod Ellingworth to join rivals Bahrain-Merida next season

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Rod Ellingworth with Geraint Thomas  - Getty Images Europe
Rod Ellingworth with Geraint Thomas  - Getty Images Europe

Team Sky have suffered a blow with performance director Rod Ellingworth, one of the founding members of the team, due to join rivals Bahrain-Merida from next season.

Ellingworth’s departure from Sky is not a huge surprise. The Telegraph was told as far back as last autumn, well before Sky Plc’s bombshell announcement that it was quitting, and subsequent agreement with petrochemicals firm Ineos, that he was considering leaving. And Cyclingnews.com reported earlier this week that the 46 year-old, who for a long time combined his work with Sky with a number of roles at British Cycling, would join Bahrain-Merida.

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The choice of destination may raise some eyebrows, though Bahrain-Merida are an ambitious outfit. The Italy-based team, who are part-owned by Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a member of the nation’s royal family, entered into a joint-venture partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies earlier this year. And while it remains to be seen how that relationship develops, the arrival of Ellingworth hints at greater Anglo-Saxon involvement. McLaren told The Telegraph in December that there was “certainly the possibility of the name McLaren being part of the team in the future in some way”.

Ellingworth’s arrival certainly represents a big coup for them. The affable, Burnley-born coach famously set up British Cycling’s academy programme back in 2004. His former proteges - who include the likes of Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas - have won a combined five Olympic gold medals, 12 world track titles, one world road race title, 51 grand tour stage wins, one Milan-San Remo title and the Tour de France.

Stevie Williams, a young Welshman, is currently the only British rider at the team, although there are reports that Vincenzo Nibali may leave for Trek-Segafredo next season, which would leave the team in need of a new leader.

Team Sky confirmed Ellingworth’s departure in a short statement yesterday:  “Rod Ellingworth will be leaving Team Sky to join Bahrain-Merida from next season. Ellingworth, who was a founder member of the team upon our formation in 2010, informed senior management of his decision earlier this season.

“He will remain with the team for the immediate future to ensure an amicable and smooth transition.

“Everyone at the team thanks Rod for his immense service and contribution during his time with us.

“The team will be making no further comment.”

Meanwhile, Team Sky will be switching to Team Ineos sooner than expected. The team had planned to relaunch on May 1, just prior to the Tour de Yorkshire (May 2-5). However, under UCI rules, teams cannot compete in separate races under different names or change their name mid-race.

And with Thomas among the Sky riders scheduled to compete at the Tour de Romandie from April 30 until May 5, the team will be required to sport the Ineos logo. Race organisers said Team Ineos would be wearing a special one-off black kit in Switzerland with the team still due to reveal their new kit and colours in Yorkshire.

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