Rod Ellingworth, the Ineos Grenadiers’ deputy team principal and one of the British squad’s founding members, has resigned from his role amid rumours of internal tensions, according to reports this morning.
One of the architects of British cycling’s success on the elite stage over the past two decades, and the pioneer of the governing body’s famed academy programme, Ellingworth was a key part of Team Sky’s original management line-up when the WorldTour squad was established in late 2009 and – with the exception of a brief, ill-fated stint at Bahrain McLaren in 2020 – has been widely regarded as critical to its success and development.
However, according to a report in the Telegraph, the 51-year-old’s sudden departure – which the newspaper claims has not yet been officially communicated to the Ineos Grenadiers’ riders – represents yet another break from the past for a squad which has struggled to emerge out of the prolonged period of transition that has followed the team’s first grand tour-laden decade.
The Telegraph also reports that Ellingworth could soon be followed out the exit door by team principal Dave Brailsford, who also operates as the director of sport at Ineos and appears set to join boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe at Manchester United, as part of a new three-person football committee, when the petrochemical billionaire’s purchase of 25 percent of the chaotic fallen giant is finally confirmed.
It is not yet clear if Brailsford, who recently returned to the frontlines at the cycling squad after a spell concentrating on his role at Ineos Sport and the fortunes of OGC Nice’s football team, will step back from the WorldTour outfit definitively once he takes up the reins at Old Trafford.
While the reasons for Ellingworth’s departure are currently unknown, the deputy team principal – who is charge of the day-to-day running of the team, but reportedly did not have a final say in overall, long-term strategy – denied rumours of internal turbulence at the Ineos Grenadiers in August.
Reports of backroom strife emerged in the wake of a mass exodus of key riders, including 2020 Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, Pavel Sivakov, Dani Martinez, and Ben Tulett, to major rivals, while confusion reigned over the team’s transfer policies.
“There are a lot of rumours going around. What I would say is don’t listen to the rumours,” Ellingworth told GCN at the Vuelta a España.
“I don’t know what the confusion is. I’m just head down doing my job. A lot of people are talking because we’re not announcing things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not working and things aren’t happening. There’s a lot happening.”
In the same interview, Ellingworth also refuted the suggestion that Brailsford was returning to the team bus to rip up the squad’s current plans and start from scratch.
“With Dave, nothing has changed,” he said. “He’s been doing that role for a while now and he’s working hard across all areas of Ineos Sport, but part of that is the cycling and he has always remained involved.
“Our relationship certainly hasn’t changed recently. We still communicate all the time, so there’s been no real change in that respect.”
Unlucky 13: Geraint Thomas came agonisingly close to a 13th grand tour win for Ineos at this year’s Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
When asked about Ineos’ period of transition – the team, which has 12 grand tour wins under its belt, has not triumphed at a grand tour since Egan Bernal’s 2021 Giro d’Italia victory – following the emergence of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates as cycling’s new dominant forces, Ellingworth added: “The way I look at it, we’re in a good place. Name me one team in sport who stays at the top the whole time. It doesn’t happen. We haven’t won the Tour in a few years but we’re as ambitious as ever and we’ll keep pushing.
“I see a lot of happy faces here. I see excited staff here who want to develop riders and go on that journey with them. For me that’s the best thing about all this.
“We did it with Geraint [Thomas], with Bradley [Wiggins], with [Chris] Froome, and those wins didn’t happen overnight. You invest in the journey, and that’s what I love.”
In any case, the departure of Ellingworth – a man synonymous with the development of some of the UK’s finest racing talent and the architect of so much success – represents the end of yet another era for British cycling.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.