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Jeff Louder all geared up for the Tour of California (foto: AbbiOrca.com)
Jeff Louder all geared up for the Tour of California (foto: AbbiOrca.com)

BMC holds its own against elite field in prologue

15. February 2009

Sacramento

With many of the top names in cycling competing at the 2009 edition of the Tour of California, the frenzied anticipation felt for the start of the event is something seen only for the top European races of the year.  And since the top 10 read like the results from a Tour de France prologue, it is safe to say that the cycling stars did not disappoint the nearly 100,000 strong crowd. 

With hot favourite Fabian Cancellara winning the prologue, and home-state hero Levi Leipheimer taking a close second, the stage has been set for a very competitive 8 more days.  Since the BMC Racing Team can not claim to have a prologue specialist on the roster, they can be pleased to have bunched their times together in the top half of the peloton, well within striking distance for the main event stages yet to come.

Jeff Louder best placed BMC rider

"Today was an interesting day following behind our 8 riders in the car, and seeing how each one of them handled the course differently," General Manager Gavin Chilcott explained.  "We're not in the top 10, but no one lost a lot of time and Jeff in particular had a very good ride for a non-specialist at prologues."   Finishing just 11 seconds behind stage winner and current race leader Cancellara, Louder can feel satisfied with his effort.  "I'm surprised that I'm the best time for the team, which I guess is a good sign, but I'm not racing against my team!"  Louder joked.  "It's nice to have this first effort out of the way and to get some indication of what sort of condition I am in.  But today is in no way a reflection of how the rest of the week will go for the team."  The top four riders for BMC were closely bunched within 17 seconds of the leader.   "Today we were racing on dry streets and had Louder, Nydam, Moos and McKissick all coming in with very respectable times," Chilcott explained.  "I think Ian had the legs for a better result, but he may have lost a few seconds on a couple of corners."  Though the course was not especially technical, the first corner in particular proved to be puzzling for many riders in the field.  "There was a big difference in how a lot of the guys in the race chose to take that first corner, and you could lose a lot of momentum if you misjudged it," Chilcott said. 

Still flying under the radar, BMC expects big things in days ahead

"Our strength is in our depth but since we're not one of the really big teams, we're still very much flying under the radar," Louder explained.  "I believe we can definitely be confident that we are close to the Saxo-Banks, Columbias and Astanas in our ability, so we can concentrate on winning while being the dark horse in the pack."  Though there is a lot of climbing in all of the remaining stages, without a mountain top finish, it is hard to predict just what an impact each climb will have on how the race unfolds overall.  "This is a really good race because it is hard to predict," Chilcott said.  "The climbing is tough, but no one can hope to factor prominently without being able to deliver a top ride at the Solvang time trial."  BMC helped solidify its aggressive reputation in this race last year by being present in nearly every important break in every stage.  Though not completely turning their backs on that style of racing, they hope to figure more prominently at the decisive moments of the race.  "There is nothing that says BMC riders can't get into breaks, and we will certainly be looking out for those opportunities," Chilcott clarified.  "But we will also make sure that we have a couple of guys looking to stay in the absolute top selection." 

The eight musketeers

The question which still remains to be answer, though, is who from the team will have that responsibility.  "Just from what I've seen, Alex looks extremely fit to me," Louder revealed.  "He very well could be the guy the rest of us are working for to get into the top 3 or 5 of the GC."  And though Louder typically comes to form a little later in the season, Chilcott isn't counting out his chances at this year's Tour of California. "It was nice to see Jeff do so well today in the prologue and he has emerged as a very effective time trialler, so he could be the guy we are looking to during the latter half of this week," Chilcott said.  "We'll know more as the stages begin to unfold."  Coming off a successful training camp and having had several weeks to fine-tune the form, all of the members of BMC feel confident and fit.  "There is no 'weakest link' on the team since everyone has good form," Louder said.  "Most importantly there is a great team spirit; there are much better things to come for this team in these next 8 days."