Rod Ellingworth speaking with Mark Cavendish at the 2023 Giro d'Italia.

Rod Ellingworth’s ‘sad’ departure is the latest sign of turmoil at Ineos Grenadiers

"It's all change in the team now," said longtime team member Geraint Thomas on his podcast.

Ineos’s Rod Ellingworth speaking with Astana’s Mark Cavendish at the 2023 Giro d’Italia.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 22.11.2023 Photography by
Kristof Ramon
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As of last week, Rod Ellingworth is out as deputy team principal of the Ineos Grenadiers, and based on the reaction of former Tour de France champ Geraint Thomas, the news was as “surprising” for those within the squad as it was for those of us on the outside looking in.

Apparently, Ellingworth had indeed at least tried to tell Thomas before the news got out, but that didn’t work as planned.

“I felt quite bad because he wanted to call me, and I’ve been here, and I’ve kept forgetting,” Thomas said this week on his Geraint Thomas Cycling Club Podcast. “I was like, ‘Ah shit, it’ll be okay. I’ll just ring him tomorrow.’ Then it was all over Twitter then, and he’d sent me a message to say, ‘Yeah, I’m leaving, blah blah blah, just wanted to speak to you before leaving but it’s been leaked already.'”

Indeed, Thomas’s experience of finding out about the news via social media fits pretty nicely into the ever-developing “what the heck is going on over there” conversation around the team lately. To recap: Ineos has seen a major departure of talent to other teams and few fresh recruits even as it dawdled on re-signing many of its riders; owner Jim Ratcliffe and Ellingworth’s boss and predecessor, Dave Brailsford, appear to be increasingly occupied with Ratcliffe’s impending investment in the Manchester United football club, a year in the making; and now there’s staff turmoil, with Ellingworth out and rumors of other turnover as well.

That’s one way of looking at the situation, although it should be said that the team roster won’t look much different in 2024 from what it looked like in 2023. There were rumblings over the past few months that the Ineos Grenadiers were interested in bringing either Primož Roglič or Remco Evenepoel aboard, but neither move came to fruition. In the end, the team offered late-season renewals to Thomas and Carlos Rodríguez to co-headline with Tom Pidcock on a roster made up mostly of holdovers.

On the other hand, many of the big names from the team’s glory years are long gone – to other teams or retired –and even more notably, so is the ready expectation of Grand Tour success. That is a big change. After winning seven Tours de France in eight years and at least one Grand Tour every year except its first season in 2010, the team formerly known as Sky has not won any of the sport’s prized three-week races since the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

Ellingworth’s return to the Ineos Grenadiers that year after a stint at Bahrain-McLaren seemed like a step towards re-cementing the squad as a team atop the WorldTour pecking order, with Ellingworth in a major leadership role as longtime team boss Brailsford continued to take on more duties within Ratcliffe’s larger Ineos sporting empire.

Ellingworth had worked with many of Sky’s biggest stars since before they were WorldTour pros in his time at British Cycling, and then he was a key player in the rise of Sky as the dominant Grand Tour force of the 2010s. But after leaving for a year, he returned to a team that was watching Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard emerge as the sport’s next superstars while Ineos’ standard bearer, Egan Bernal, suffered a career-changing injury in the 2021-22 offseason.

The 2023 season saw Ineos run oh-so-close to a Grand Tour win with Thomas coming up just short at the Giro d’Italia behind Primož Roglič. The team still won 36 races and put up a respectable final mark in the UCI team rankings, but the biggest takeaway was probably that for yet another year, Ineos was very much not the top team it once was. With that in mind, it would not have been a big surprise to see the team make major roster changes ahead of 2024, but that didn’t happen.

And even if they’re mostly standing pat on the rider roster, Thomas intimated that the change at the top – and that it was leaked before the team told riders or made it official – are continuing signs of upheaval even as Ineos is staring down another season of trying to re-find that old magic, with one fewer familiar face for the search. Thomas, at least, doesn’t seem too pleased about it, calling Ellingworth a “top bloke” who will “definitely be missed.”

“I have spoken to him and he’s sad to be leaving but I think, you know, family stuff and whatever, don’t want to go into all the details,” Thomas said, discussing Ellingworth’s departure with podcast co-host Tom Fordyce. “Just from my side, having known him for so long, a good 20 years now, on a personal level, I feel like I know him well and we get on. Professionally, as I say, we worked together for 20 years. I feel like he was good, he was great for the team. But things change and people move on. It was quite surprising as well.”

Thomas described the situation as “gutting,” but also hinted that Ellingworth might remain in cycling in some way, if not at Ineos. “Sad to see him go, but he’s still going to be around, he’s still going to be following,” Thomas said. “I think he is still going to be involved in the sport because that’s what he does and loves. But yeah, it’s all change in the team now.”

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