Interview: Rod Ellingworth on Mark Cavendish, doping and more...

Rod Ellingworth signs a copy of Project Rainbow for Jack Simpson. 813D
Rod Ellingworth signs a copy of Project Rainbow for Jack Simpson. 813D
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One of Grantham’s most successful sporting sons returned to the town this week and was met by his father and former cycling teammates.

Rod Ellingworth began his career in cycling as a young boy with the Witham Wheelers and has seen that career take him around the world working with and coaching world-class sportsmen such as Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

On Tuesday evening he spoke at a packed question and answer session at Grantham Library. Here we bring you some of the highlights:

On first meeting a teenage Mark Cavendish...

He pulled up in his car and it was a gold coloured Corsa with “007” written across the top. He still thinks he’s the boy but he really did think he was the boy back then for no reason whatsoever. At least now he has a reason. He bounds in, he thinks he’s a scouser and he’s not. But the thing about him is his energy and I think that was something which was why we got on so well together because people had not given him the time before. They thought his energy was bad energy but I always thought it was a very positive energy.

On a career in cycling...

I love cycling. I think if I was not doing this I would be perhaps living here and helping promote the club bike races. We have always done it as a family. We support cycling and we love the sport. I just feel like I’m one of the fortunate ones who got a job in cycling.

On discipline...

I didn’t hold back on them, that’s for sure...The first year or two I was super-hard on them and I was told to rein back a bit...We came up with the idea of doing jobs around the velodrome and one of the things was cleaning cars. So if one of them was late for a session, the next morning the whole lot of them were there cleaning cars outside the velodrome. They soon got the message.

On Lance Armstrong...

I was astounded by all the Armstrong stuff and ashamed to be a cyclist really when I heard all that.

On doping and suspicion...

This year’s Tour was particularly hard post-Armstrong and all that going off in the winter. By the end of the Tour we were pretty sick of it all (the questioning) actually. I remember the night after the Alpe d’Huez and Chris came to my room and he had just come back from dope control. He was really concerned because on that day somebody had got a big toy syringe and, as he had come past, they blew it in his face and it all went in his mouth. He came in and said he was really concerned because there were websites out there at that minute betting on when Chris Froome is going to be caught for doping and he said anybody could do anything. At the moment we are doing a big move on security around our team. The sport is very open to the public. There are so many people at the Tour who can come around and can see us all working. In a way they can very easily get access to our vehicles and do anything and I think there are some very nasty people out there and some people don’t like us, so it’s a big thing.

Not for the squeamish...

A young Mark Cavendish crashed at the Manchester

Velodrome...

He comes up to me and pulls his skinsuit down and has several big splinters down his chest. They were two or three inches long and some of them were quite a long way in. I said not to worry and we can get them pulled out but he was still looking at me with a bit of a wince on his face. He said ‘are you squeamish?’ So he continued to pull his skinsuit down – all the blokes out there will know what I’m talking about – let’s just say he had a splinter where you would not want a splinter!
The thing about Mark is, I sent him off to see the doctor and about half an hour later he came bounding back to the track and was straight back on the bike.