His crowning moment, having founded the British Cycling Academy, was guiding Manx Missile Mark Cavendish from teenager to world champion.
And now British Cycling’s elite road coach and Team Sky’s performance manager, Rod Ellingworth, believes another Manxman is set for a bright future in the sport.
With the 2016 Olympic Games on the horizon, and having worked with him as both an Academy rider and now with Team Sky, Ellingworth has tipped Pete Kennaugh for big things and believes the 24-year-old is capable of becoming Olympic champion.
While the route for the Rio 2016 road race is yet to be announced, Ellingworth believes a rolling parcours could be in store which would suit the 2012 team pursuit gold medallist.
“Of all the riders I’ve worked with for hilly races, he’s certainly the best one-day racer,” Ellingworth told RCUK.
“I don’t think it’s too early to start earmarking riders. There’s the Yates brothers and I wouldn’t count Froomey out of anything. I know he hasn’t won any one-day races but there’s always a first time for people.
“You have to believe or else you’ve got nothing. I think Froome, and I most definitely think Pete Kennaugh [has the potential to win in Rio], if he keeps moving forward.”
Of all the riders I’ve worked with, Pete Kennaugh is certainly the best one-day racer for hilly courses
Kennaugh shot to prominence this year after performing admirably as a mountain lieutenant to Chris Froome on the way to the Kenyan-born Brit’s Tour de France success.
And Ellingworth, who admitted the Manxman’s selection had not been pre-planned, believes the experience will have a hugely positive effect on the 24-year-old.
“I was delighted that he made the Tour because that wasn’t expected,” he said. “That wasn’t what his plan was for this year. Mainly the plan was to support Brad in the Giro and have a solid year.
“We were looking for him to have a very consistent year. So when you look at that, we haven’t had a consistent year because he’s done nothing since the Tour.
“If you want to look at goal setting, it’s been quite difficult for him but you can’t stop people riding the Tour if they’re good enough.
“But I think mentally he’s moved on, just as a person he’s moved on from that experience and that’s perhaps more valuable to him at this stage in his career than a consistent year. I think we’ll see a different Pete Kennaugh next year.”
Ellingworth has been at the heart of British Cycling since founding the academy, with Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and double Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy among the stars to have been born from it.
Cavendish’s win was a landmark. It confirmed that we were on our way
He has written a new book, Project Rainbow, about the academy and the plan to make Cavendish world champion in 2011 – and reflecting on the sprinter’s victory, Ellingworth believes it was a landmark moment for British cycling.
“I think it was a landmark, for recent days anyway,” he said. “I think it confirmed that we were on our way.
“There’s obviously been some big British wins in the past – going back to Tom Simpson’s worlds win – but I think Cav was destined to be world champion having won at Milan-San-Remo already.
“We knew on the right course he was capable of doing it. I think it was an important landmark. I think it gave us a huge drive and really set the scene on the road.
“I think it contributed to Brad’s win in 2012 on the Tour and Chris’ win this year as well.”
Ellingworth believes the success in 2011 has also contributed to the huge sense of disappointment in Florence last month, when no British riders finish the men’s World Championship road race.
He was fiercely critical of the team’s failure to finish in Tuscany, but having allowed the dust to settle believes it is important to learn from the experience.
“A hilly worlds is a completely different discipline to a flat worlds, you have to approach it differently,” said Ellingworth. “It’s just a different ball game.
A hilly worlds is a different discipline and we’ll approach it differently in future – it’s taught us a lot
“I think with the World Championships being at the end of the year, for climbers who have targeted Grand Tours it’s really difficult to see it through. I know others do – Rodriguez is always in there – but as a British team only have small resources.
“We don’t have lots and lots of riders to choose from and it also requires a different approach. For a sprinter it’s not easier but you can keep your goal there for longer in the season.
“That’s what I’ve concluded about the worlds. It’s a different discipline and we’ll approach it differently in future – it’s taught us a lot.
“I think it’s just about goal-setting. There was a huge drive in 2011, it was a massive goal. I wouldn’t say the goal was any less for 2013 but it’s really the understanding from the riders’ point of view more than anything. They’ve got to realise what the goal is.”
Goal-setting is something which features prominently in Project Rainbow as Ellingworth chronicles the development of the academy and then the plan to fulfill Cavendish’s ambition to be world road race champion.
And he believes the journey to Cavendish’s success in Copenhagen can be traced all the way back to the moment the Manxman joined the academy.
“I think it all goes back to when Mark became a full-time bike rider at the end of 2003 and beginning of 2004,” he explained.
To actually pull it off in 2011 was a massive, massive buzz
“It wasn’t like at that particular moment we knew he would be road world champion but that was when the system started. It all clicked into place.
“And then once people start winning and showing their potential, you can start to plan. It was a pretty big deal.
“All the way through, as the goal became closer, it started to look more and more realistic, and obviously the pressure begins to build. Everybody knew then that Cav was the favourite for the race and so to actually pull it off – the feeling at that moment – was a massive, massive buzz, which I try to get across in the book – how it actually felt.
“So many things could have gone wrong and there was so much we put into it – staff and riders – it was pretty big!”
Having seen the academy change hands, Ellingworth was instrumental in the formation of Team Sky alongside Dave Brailsford and now combines his British Cycling duties with his work for the team.
And having taken on the new role of performance manager this year, he is delighted with how 2013 has worked out for the team.
“I think I’ve been doing the performance manager role since the start, I’ve just been labelled that this year,” he said. “But certainly the year’s been great.
“The team really settled down this year and we’ve got a great group of people. It’s enjoyable to be away with people and it’s nice that it’s beginning to get a life of its own.
“I think it’s hard to find an identity for a new team. We’re so performance-minded that it sometimes comes across as quite cold and quite black but it’s all about working for the team.
“That’s the seat of all our values, where we work hard and you don’t win unless you work hard.
“That’s where we’re breeding at the minute and I hope people can start to look back and see that part of it. That’s why we’re not super-talkative at bike races – we’re all doing our job.
“I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve enjoyed that part of it and I love what we’re doing now – the review of the season. This is the bit I enjoy more than perhaps the bike racing sometimes.”
We’re so performance-minded that it sometimes comes across as quite cold but it’s all about working for the team
Sky were narrowly beaten to first place in the world team rankings after Movistar’s Benat Intxausti won the Tour of Beijing, while Froome missed out on number one spot in the individual standings to Joaquim Rodriguez.
And Ellingworth believes it gives the team something to target as they prepare for 2014.
“I think there’s always more to achieve,” he said. “The number one ranking is something Chris could quite comfortably have won, but again that wasn’t his target and the same with Brad last year.
“We concentrate on the team ranking more than the individual ranking.
“While I don’t believe the WorldTour ranking stands for that much, I think it could certainly in the future. You hope that things like that will have more value to it, or there’s more prestige to that title.
“We’re looking forward to pushing on further next year and building on what we’ve already achieved.”
Project Rainbow will be published on Thursday October 17 and Rod Ellingworth be at Lord’s Cricket Ground on Sunday October 20, from 7:30pm-8:30pm, to discuss his new book as part of the London Sports Writing Festival