Rod Ellingworth: 'Ineos Grenadiers ran the same system and it caught up with us'

New Tour of Britain race director opens up on his reasons for leaving British team, and reflects on the highs and lows of WorldTour life

Clock11:58, Monday 1st April 2024
Between Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers, Rod Ellingworth two immensely successful spells with the WorldTeam

© Getty Images

Between Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers, Rod Ellingworth two immensely successful spells with the WorldTeam

Former Deputy Team Principal of Ineos Grenadiers, Rod Ellingworth, has offered the biggest public reflections on his departure since his resignation was confirmed in November of last year.

Appearing on a recent episode of Sigma Sports presents Matt Stephens Unplugged, the 51-year-old from Burnley, Lancashire looked back on the highs and lows of his cumulative 13 years with British WorldTeam and offered an insight into the team's underperformance in recent seasons.

"I think we felt like we had a system, it was like 'here is this system, run them through the system and they'll come out [as] Tour de France champions on the other end," Ellingworth told Stephens in an honest conversation.

"It doesn't work like that, you've got to keep adapting. I think, yes, maybe there were a couple of years there where we just ran the same system in a way and it eventually caught up with us."

Read more: Geraint Thomas gutted to see Rod Ellingworth quit Ineos Grenadiers

During his 13 years with Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky) across two spells, Ellingworth performed various roles - Race Coach, Racing Director and Deputy Team Principal along them - but was more often than not an instrumental part of one of the most successful teams that cycling has seen since the turn of the century.

"'15, '16, '17, '18, it felt a bit too easy in a way. It felt easy. We were dialled, we all knew our place, there was no egos, Dave [Brailsford] was trusting of us, of what we were doing."

Although much of the WorldTour peloton eventually caught up with their methods, the honeymoon period lasted longer than the team ever initially imagined.

"That [system] lasted, I'd say, some of them concepts lasted eight years before other teams even cottoned on to what we were doing."

Ellingworth first left the team at the end of 2019, after the team had won seven of the last eight Tours de France through Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. He sought his own opportunity to lead a team at Bahrain-McLaren through 2020, before returning to the team's fold in 2021.

In the intervening period, Jim Ratcliffe's Ineos Sport gained full ownership of the team from Sky Group UK and implemented their own style on the day-to-day operations. Noting that Ratcliffe was a lot more hands-on, Ellingworth quickly noticed that the scale of the team had burgeoned since he left the team at the end of 2019.

"When I left it was maybe 100 [people], all of a sudden it went to 130, with lots of different roles, lots of different people. It's like anything, it becomes a bit of a monster in some respects and really hard to manage and communication then is hard.

"The more people you've got, the harder it's going to be. So it was different, but I think as well the team had massive expectations on every race, pressure was always on. I think inevitably the cycle of life catches up with people eventually and also a lot of good people had moved on," he said, referring to Tim Kerrison and Fran Millar in particular.

Read more: Dave Brailsford resigns as Ineos Grenadiers team principal to focus on Manchester United

Ellingworth didn't want to be trapped at Ineos Grenadiers

Since Ellingworth's return in 2021, Ineos Grenadiers have yet to win another Tour de France title and their dominance in stage races has been unequivocally ended by Visma-Lease a Bike and UAE Team Emirates, with the likes of Lidl-Trek and Bora-Hansgrohe also outshining the team at times in recent years.

Whether it be the difficulties of communication, the failure of their old techniques or other reasons entirely, murmurings of Ellingworth's discontent at the team began to surface last summer and were reignited after the Vuelta a España.

Read more: Ineos Grenadiers name new CEO and performance director after Rod Ellingworth departure

Several transfer deals were said to have been iced by Brailsford after first being greenlit by Ellingworth and the latter acknowledged disagreements in his final months with the team.

"Sometimes in life, you're just not particularly happy, there were certain things where I was like 'I just don't totally agree.' I don't have a problem with anybody or anything, but I just didn't completely agree and then on the other hand, I've got three youngish children, I was spending seven months of the year away [and] it just gets harder," Ellingworth admitted.

A little under three weeks ago, the 51-year-old was named as the Tour of Britain's new race director, with hope increasingly rising that British Cycling will be able to put on both the men's and women's races later this season.

"It's not that I don't want to work, but I just saw a different way of life ahead and I thought, if I don't stop now, I'm going to get trapped and I don't like being trapped. I felt I was sort of getting down that route and [I was] very much thinking about the family and the kids."

Read more: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot takes 500th victory of Ineos Grenadiers' history

Nonetheless, Ellingworth can look back at 13 (mostly) glorious seasons with Ineos Grenadiers and take those years of experience with him into his latest pursuit.

At the height of their success, Ellingworth oversaw six back-to-back Grand Tours, in which his team won four on the trot and reached their zenith when Froome concurrently held the titles at the Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia.

"That was pretty big time for us, good times looking back."

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

Related Content

Link to Rod Ellingworth resigns from Ineos Grenadiers
Bar a brief stint with Bahrain-McLaren, Rod Ellingworth has been a member of Ineos Grenadiers for over a decade

Rod Ellingworth resigns from Ineos Grenadiers

The British team confirms that the Deputy Team Principal has stepped down

Link to Rod Ellingworth named as Tour of Britain race director
Rod Ellingworth left Ineos Grenadiers at the end of 2023

Rod Ellingworth named as Tour of Britain race director

British Cycling bring on former Ineos Grenadiers principal to direct men’s and women’s races

Link to Geraint Thomas gutted to see Rod Ellingworth quit Ineos Grenadiers
Climbing better than ever before, Geraint Thomas almost ended Ineos Grenadiers' Grand Tour dry spell at the Giro d'Italia in May

Geraint Thomas gutted to see Rod Ellingworth quit Ineos Grenadiers

Welshman reacts to news of Ellingworth's resignation on his podcast, becoming the first rider to speak publicly on the change

Link to Dave Brailsford resigns as Ineos Grenadiers team principal to focus on Manchester United
Dave Brailsford was the figurehead of Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers for many years

Dave Brailsford resigns as Ineos Grenadiers team principal to focus on Manchester United

Brailsford's departure comes almost 15 years after he co-founded the team and just months after the resignation of Rod Ellingworth, as internal shakeup continues

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox