Rod Ellingworth says it's "hard to say" whether we'll ever see Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France again, the winner of 30 stages left at home for the second year in a row.
The Bahrain-McLaren boss explains his sprinter has been a particular sporting victim of the coronavirus break, and that after the disruption over the past couple of years the Manxman really needed a solid block of racing to get back up to speed and be in contention for a spot in the squad.
"It's hard to say," Ellingworth said of the chances we'll see Cavendish on a Tour start-line in the future. "I think unfortunately for him, this situation we've found ourselves in, not racing, it went against him. If you've spent two years off the bike having lots of problems you need a consistent period of time to get yourself back to a decent level."
Ellingworth highlights Cavendish as one of many riders who struggled with too much time on the turbo and training, and not enough pinning race numbers on.
"I think as we all know with Mark, he's a bike racer, he's not particularly into the training, he loves racing," Ellingworth added.
"I think he was at a bit of a disadvantage in that sense, like many riders, just with the issues that he had. He just needed some consistent racing. So I don't know, I think time will tell."
However, the former Team Sky coach says his rider is continuing to plug away at home for when he next lines up during this condensed season.
"I think he was quite rightfully upfront to say he wasn't ready for this year’s Tour, and we'll keep working. That’s what he’s doing now, he's at home working and looking forward to the other races. Time will tell."
Cavendish-shaped distractions aside, Ellingworth is gearing up for his first Tour at the helm of Bahrain-McLaren, and expects intense racing right from the off.
"Two reasons why the race is going to be pretty intense from the start is [firstly] just the start itself, it's a challenge these first few days in Nice. I think it's quite an exceptional start compared to other years. That in itself will create opportunities for people I'm sure," Ellingworth reckons. "And then secondly, I think the whole situation we find ourselves in with teams in financial issues and there's a lot of riders still out of contract, lots of riders wanting to prove themselves and this is the shop window basically.
"So I certainly see that the whole race every single day is going to be quite intense. I think we've seen over the last few years there are no easy days in the Tour anymore. And certainly, this year is going to be one of them. I don't think the Tour will be won in the first week but certainly some people will find themselves in a situation where the Tour has slipped away from them for one reason or another."
While Ellingworth's outfit is one that has struggled financially during this turbulent year, announcing this week the loss of title sponsor McLaren for 2021, for now they'll focus on the job ahead of them, a tilt at the yellow jersey with Mikel Landa.
"We’re obviously in a pretty good place now, all the guys are here and ready to race," Ellingworth said. "Mikel is looking good, looking lean, everything has gone pretty well in the last few weeks considering the situation we've been in.
"I couldnt have asked more from the riders and staff, it’s been challenging for everybody, we’ve all had our issues as a team. But we’re looking forward to the race, pleased its happening, and hoping it stays on the road."
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