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The Swiss Champion will not be racing at the Tour of Switzerland this year (Foto by Tim De Waele)
The Swiss Champion will not be racing at the Tour of Switzerland this year (Foto by Tim De Waele)

A mixed start to the season with a silver lining

10. April 2009

Santa Rosa

The BMC Racing Team stands ready before its first participation at the Classic Paris-Roubaix. The season so far has seen the American-Swiss team hitting some highs as well as lows.  The first races in Qatar and California found the team not reaching all established goals.  However two stage wins and the overall victory at the prestigious Redlands Bicycle Classic proved the team still has a lot of fight left.

Now with Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Romandie to race in the next weeks, the team faces two exciting challenges.  The only disappointment of the season so far is that though the BMC Racing Team can field 8 Swiss riders including Swiss National Road Champion Markus Zberg, the team does not have an invitation to the Tour of Switzerland.  The Swiss Tour organizer IMG withheld a Wild Card spot due to "budget reasons".

California under a bad sign

As the lone American-Swiss Pro Continental team, BMC saw the Tour of California as the first big highlight of the season.  The goal was to defend and improve upon the excellent performance in 2008 which found Scott Nydam winning the King of the Mountains award and Alex Moos placing 10th overall.  Unfortunately, neither accomplishment could be bettered.  Nydam crashed heavily in stage 4, breaking his collarbone and consequently dropping out of the race.  Meanwhile, Alex Moos worked hard the entire week of racing, but never found his racing legs.  Swiss Champion Markus Zberg's performance represented one of the only rays of hope with 3 top ten stage results.

Tough racing in Europe – Big win in the USA

Several early spring races in Europe found the young team paying its dues.  Whether at the 3 Days of West Flanders or at the Criterium International, the group was not able to get the necessary traction.  "The riders were all very professional and well prepared but sometimes seemed to lack the fitness for the day. And Murphy’s Law would have: when you are already struggling to give your very best, the equipment starts playing up costing you even more time and energy." Such is Directeur Sportif John Lelangue's realistic assessment of the first several weeks of racing for the team this spring.  Disappointments on the European front made him all the happier, therefore, to see the group racing the American calendar doing so well.  Jeff Louder, 32, road very strongly at the three-stage San Dimas race and then took a stage win and the overall victory at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.  "I am enormously pleased for Jeff and the team.  It was already very clear at the Tour of California that Jeff is very engaged and aggressive in his racing style. And Jackson Stewart's stage win was also a great satisfaction and the icing on the cake for the team.  I am convinced that our riders have excellent form and that we are on the right track to do well at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Romandie," Lelangue explained.

Demand high for BMC – just not at the Tour de Suisse

The BMC Racing Team is not the only party interested in understanding why IMG, the organizers of the Tour de Suisse does not want to have the American-Swiss team at its national tour.  The team's Wild Card status ostensibly qualifies it to race all ProTour events.  "IMG answered our inquiry with a terse fax which simply stated that our team would not be invited due to budget reasons," explained John Lelangue.  The desicion of the Tour de Suisse organizers has the experts scratching their heads since leaving BMC off the invite list means that the Swiss Road Race Champion Markus Zberg, Tour de Suisse stage winner Alex Moos and up-and-coming Swiss talents Danilo Wyss, Steve Bovay, Martin Kohler, Mathias Frank, Florian Stalder and Thomas Frei will not be on hand to field an all-Swiss team for the Tour.  Behind the scene whispers indicate that the real reason for the refusal rests with a private feud which is on-going between IMG director Armin Meier and BMC Racing Team Sponsor Andy Rihs.  Rihs had been openly invited to purchase a place in the race for his team.  However Rihs vehemently rejected this unethical offer. The fact that the team has received an invitation to the Dauphiné Libéré is a clear indicator that the BMC Racing Team is indeed being welcomed at the larger races without any preconditions.