Rod Ellingworth knows Mark Cavendish better than anyone else in professional cycling and so was acutely aware of the pain the Manxman must be suffering after he crashed out of the Tour de France, ending his hopes and dreams of taking a record-breaking 35th stage win.
Ellingworth is now the team manager at Ineos Grenadiers but he saw Cavendish’s true potential and determination as a teenager when performance coaches doubted his watts and physical attributes.
Ellingworth fuelled Cavendish’s determination to be a successful sprinter and turn professional and then masterminded the project that led to Cavendish winning the world title in Copenhagen in 2011.
They are now on different teams but remain very close. Ellingworth immediately empathised with Cavendish after his crash and was saddened to see him leave the race in an ambulance. He felt the pain of his collarbone fracture and knows what it all means for Cavendish and his family.
“I could see when he climbed in the ambulance. I think he’ll be shell-shocked, really shell-shocked,” Ellingworth told Cyclingnews after the finish in Limoges.
“I’m first of all thinking about Mark and about how his family are feeling. It’s a huge and very sad moment for all of them.”
Ellingworth put events into perspective for Cavendish and the sport.
“I think if he’d finished the Tour and not won a stage that would have been one thing but to crash out of the Tour like that is such a terrible thing,” he explained.
“It’s tragic for him and tragic for the whole sport. We’ve all been robbed of that great opportunity to see him win a 35th stage. It’s a disappointment for everybody, I’m sure everyone feels sad.”
Ellingworth knew sooner than most people that Cavendish was going to retire in 2023, perhaps even advising him through the decision-making process.
Ellingworth believed that Cavendish could win a Tour de France sprint in his final ride. He does not rule out Cavendish now deciding to race on in 2024 and so perhaps return to the Tour de France to end his long and successful career on a high, not in an ambulance.
“He was not odds on to win a 35th stage but he had a fair good chance,” Ellingworth said with honesty. “I wouldn’t want to speculate about his future at this point but knowing Cav, who knows…”