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Having grown up through the British Cycling development programme, Mark Cavendish's relationship with Rod Ellingworth has been a longstanding constant in the Manxman's career, despite not always being professionally connected. First connecting in 2003 at the Olympic Academy for junior riders, it was Ellingworth who lobbied for Cavendish's inclusion after poor fitness tests put his progress at risk.
Working with Ellingworth at British Cycling and Team Sky, the so-called Manx Missile has taken victories on the world's biggest stages, including world-championship gold on the track in the Madison with Bradley Wiggins in 2008, winning the world road race championships in 2011, and winning the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées for the fourth time in a row in 2012.
Cavendish hasn't taken more than a solitary season win since 2016, when he took four stages at the Tour, leapfrogging Bernard Hinault into second place on the all-time list of stage winners with 30 victories, just four wins behind Eddy Merckx. The next-closest rider still racing today is Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) with 12.
Since then, the sprinter has struggled with injury, the Epstein Barr virus, and his fair share of crashes over the last couple of seasons. His last opportunity to raise his hands aloft across a finish line was at the Dubai Tour in February 2018.
After years apart, 2020 sees Cavendish and Ellingworth reunite at Bahrain McLaren, and for this latest attempt at rekindling his old form, Cavendish is currently tackling a 'Tour de France-quality sprint field' at the UAE Tour. On stage 1, he was in the mix, but could only finish 15th, behind main rivals Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen and stage winner Pascal Ackermann, while he finished towards the back of the field on stage 2 to Hatta Dam on Monday, where Ewan took the win from Bennett.
The Reacto is an out-and-out aero bike, designed purely to cheat the wind – a notion adopted by Cavendish earlier than most in the pro peloton.
Despite the rise of tubeless technology in the WorldTour being spearheaded by Vision, Cavendish's Vision wheels are very much of the tubular variety, shod with Continental's Pro Ltd tubular tyres. They do see a modicum of modernity, however, by virtue of the Dura-Ace Ice Tech Freeza disc-brake rotors. Like Lotto Soudal and Movistar, Bahrain McLaren have committed solely to disc brakes for the 2020 season.
In the WorldTour, there are certain riders who like to tinker with their set-up more than others, and we're always excited to see their bikes to see what they've been up to. Adam Hansen, Richie Porte and Mark Cavendish are all riders who tend to run oddities on their race bikes, and, for 2020, Cavendish seems to have flipped his Shimano sprint shifters upside down for quicker access to the next gear. He's also using old pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000, to be specific. We're unsure why.
Click through the gallery above for a closer look at Mark Cavendish's Merida Reacto.
Mark Cavendish's Merida Reacto full bike specifications
Frameset: Merida Reacto Disc Team
Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Hydraulic Disc caliper
Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Hydraulic Disc caliper
Brake/shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9170 Hydraulic Disc Brake Dual Control Lever
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9150
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9150
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9100 11-30T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P w/ Dual-sided power
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace
Wheelset: Vision Metron 55 tubular
Tyres: Continental Pro Ltd tubular, 25mm
Handlebars: Zero Integrated carbon bar and stem, 40cm
Handlebar tape: Prologo Onetouch tape
Stem: FSA OS99 CSI, ~140mm
Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
Saddle: Prologo Nago Evo
Seat post: Merida Reacto proprietary
Bottle cages: Elite Vico Carbon
Rider height: 1.75m