Teams & Riders Bahrain

With Rod Ellingworth taking over as Team Principal on October 1st (a PR shield for Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Bahraini Sheikh who founded the team three years ago) time for a Clinic thread about the middle-eastern team with an F1 link (co-owners McLaren will get second-spot in the team name in 2020).

First, one of my favourite stories about Ellingworth, as told by the blessèd David Walsh, during his post-Armstrong victory tour. The road book here is the Tour's:
"For Rod Ellingworth, Team Sky's master planner, the road book is the bible. So on the day he gets it, he riffles through the pages, checking the details that underpin his planning. He gets to page 46 with its photo of Virenque and it disgusts and confuses him. Ellingworth can be diplomatic, understated and restrained when talking about most things. Doping is different and in his eyes Virenque has stood for everything he despises about the sport. He stops at page 46, turns the page over to check there's nothing too important on the other side, and tears Richard from the book and bins him."
Ellingworth's tolerance for doping can be stretched: he did, for instance, use one of Tom Simpson's jerseys to inspire his riders during Project Rainbow's build-up to the Copenhagen Worlds in 2011, won by Mark Cavendish. So it will be interesting to see who gets to ride for the team, or sit in the team cars. And how his relationship with general manager Brent Copeland works out.

Doping, though, shouldn't be an issue at Bahrain, with co-owners McLaren saying they carried out due dilligence before coming onboard. This is McLaren's Chief Marketing Officer John Allert speaking in December 2018 when his company's hook-up with the Middle Eastern island state was first announced:
"We spent a lot of time this year around doing due diligence and the nature of the opportunity," he said. "Nothing is ever 100 per cent sure, but we sought and received assurances from the UCI as to what the sport is doing. The reaction from both the Bahrain-Merida team and the UCI to anything that's happened throughout the season has underscored the commitment that both those parties have. That was reassuring to us as part of our due diligence."
On top of this, there is also Vincenzo Nibali, the self-declared standard-bearer for anti-doping. Except, of course, the team is losing anti-doping's chief flag-carrier to Trek. Oops. I wonder what Mikel Landa's flag waving is like?
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We should bring in here Kanstantsin Siutsou, formerly of Sky (2012-2015) and Dimension Data (2016) who in 2018 ended two seasons with Bahrain early after popping a positive for EPO in an OOC test. The test was carried out at the end of July and the team claim they'd already told the rider in June that they wouldn't be renewing his contract at the end of the season. So, an aging pro (37) looking for a boost to attract the wandering eye of a new team? Or...
And then there's Milan Eržen, the team's Slovenian 'managing director' (whose role in the team is so super-secret that not only does his name not appear on the UCI's team roster, it doesn't even appear on the team's own website). While Slovenian cycling is enjoying something of a banner year, Eržen finds himself under the sort of cloud that's hard to escape from with your reputation intact: he's under investigation by the UCI as part of the Austrian blood-doping investigation, Operation Aderlass.
Aug 12, 2018
As said on another thread, I visited the team. Looks like a serious and well-resourced operation. With some real commercial talent too. It will be interesting to see them step up from the current level, they certainly seem very committed to occupying one of the super team spots.
As said on another thread, I visited the team. Looks like a serious and well-resourced operation. With some real commercial talent too. It will be interesting to see them step up from the current level, they certainly seem very committed to occupying one of the super team spots.
It's time for Bahrain to stop looking and acting like a potential BMC-lite (two Monuments and half a dozen or so Grand Tour stages are not to be sniffed at but expectations called for more). McLaren's arrival - which is very much symbolised by Ellingworth's appointment - is why this thread exists. That McLaren have used 2019 as a soft launch / experience-gathering exercise is interesting (in a good way). How they deal with the Adderlass link (whatever it proves to be) will be worth seeing, although I suspect soft power / sport-washing allegations will receive more column inches. (Also, their handling of the Rohan Dennis thing may see them needing to repair some bridges with the media.)
Boo hoo.

There's been other threads on this team.
There have been threads elsewhere (I'm pretty sure I shut one because it was a discussion of the state, not the cycling team) but I don't think there has been one in the clinic. My closing that thread may have had an effect there. I'm pretty sure there are several threads about their riders though and it's possible one has been used as a surrogate thread.
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Maybe I'm thinking of individual rider threads where we've discussed the team as a whole. I know there was a thread on the teams origin and sponsorship.

Blind nationalism rankles me is all.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I shut that one, same with one about the Giro starting in Israel. They were in the PRR and going down non-cycling lines. Possible people thought that any thread about Bahrain would go that way and get shut as well, but that's speculation.
The only bite in an otherwise rather bland "exclusive" puff-piece marking the official arrival of Ellingworth in sleepy Woking:
Bahrain-Merida have not been without controversy in the first 2½ years of their existence. One of their riders, Kanstantsin Siutsou, was suspended last year for EPO, while the team had to pull another, Kristijan Koren, out of the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, and provisionally suspend assistant sports director Borut Bozic, after they were named in connection with a doping probe. Both their cases allegedly took place long before they joined the team.
Oddly, absent from the whole of the eighteen hundred words of stunning insights ("'I’ve no problem in saying that I want this team to become a grand tour-winning team,” he adds. “And yes, that means a Tour de France-winning team.”') is any mention of Milan Eržen, the team's Slovenian 'managing director', a man whose role in Bahrain-Merida is so super-secret that not only does his name not appear on the UCI's team roster, it doesn't even appear on the team's own website. But it does appear on the UCI's List of People We're Quite Curious About, seeing as he's been strongly linked to the on-going Operation Aderlass (or in the JTL-like euphemism employed on the sports pages, "a doping probe [concerning events that] allegedly took place long before they joined the team"). Odd the things you can forget to mention, isn't it?
No ZTP at Bahrain-McLaren:
“I did work for a team that didn’t have anything to do with people who had anything to do with doping, and we didn’t bother with them. We’re not like that on this team. And on this team, if you’re able to work for us within the rules then you’ll be able to work with us. "
Ditto any interest in "politics" - aka "human rights" - it would appear:
"From a Bahrain point of view, you’d have to talk to others about politics because I’m not that guy who is going to get into those things. I’m here to win bike races and that’s it. "
And on the shadowy Milan Eržen, a man whose role in the Bahrain-McLaren set-up is so super-secret his name doesn't even appear on the team's own website?
"There’s no active investigation with Milan that we’re aware of. He’s very well connected with the Bahrain side of the team and this team, and its formation was his baby in a way. The guy works relentlessly and he’s part of the direction and strategy for the team. Previously he was the main man on the team, and he got the team up and running. Now it’s structured slightly different but he’s still a big player. He has every right to be, and, going back to Aderlass, it’s all reports and there’s no direct link.”
Oh! And Ellingworth on that David Walsh story about him being so anti-doping he'd rip a page out of the Tour's Bible just cause it had a pic of Richard Virenque on it:
“That was more of a personal thing,” Ellingworth says regarding Vireneque as he faces up the topic.

“I was racing in France at the time of Festina and you’d see Virenque floating around at races and you’d think ‘hang on mate, keep your head down because you’ve done what you’ve done’. At the end of the day it was someone who didn’t do the right thing for the sport. That was that moment.
Four years on the naughty step for 37-years-old Kanstantsin Siutsou
The UCI has announced that Kanstantsin Siutsou has been given a four-year ban after testing positive for banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO).

The UCI revealed in September 2018 that Siutsou's test was "planned and carried out by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation". After a drawn-out trial via the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal, Siutsou was given a four-year period of ineligibility. The ban will end on September 4, 2022.

The 36-year-old Italian-based Belarusian rode for Bahrain-Merida in 2018 and was a key Grand Tour domestique for Vincenzo Nibali. He rode for Dimension Data in 2017 and Team Sky between 2012 and 2015.