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Photo: Tim de Wale
Photo: Tim de Wale

After a year of confidence-building successes, BMC looks forward to a big 2009

6. October 2008

The BMC Racing Team entered the 2008 season with big goals but multiple unknowns facing the largely inexperienced group.

Entering its first year as a ProContinental squad, BMC followed a steep learning curve as its exciting mix of neo-pros, pros new to Euro-style racing, and  more experienced pros eager to pass on some of their choice bits of wisdom learned to work together.  Its riders, particularly those relatively new to the highest levels of racing, evolved from uncertain to confident animators of big races.  Following this year of multiple successes, the team has raised the bar for what it plans to accomplish in 2009 and years to come.

Most important accomplishment: learning to ride as a team

Cycling at the highest levels is most certainly a team-oriented sport.  And though every professional will acknowledge this fact and very often subsume his or her own ambitions for the good of the team, team spirit is the ephemeral element that can only grow with the proper support.  “The most important accomplishment this year was that the guys really learned to ride as a team,” Directeur Sportif John Lelangue explained.  “2008 has acted like year zero for us since we started the year with several Americans who had little to no experience racing in Europe and three Swiss riders without Pro level experience.”  The team hit the road head on, and immediately made an impression at the Tour of California winning universal acclaim for its aggressive riding.  “We took a bunch of guys who were unclear about their own expectations in January, but they can now finish the year knowing that they belong among the elite European peloton,” General Manager Gavin Chilcott concluded.  “That overhauls any uncertainties which existed since Euro racing gets so romanticized in America; they now know that level of racing is well within their capabilities, they won’t be distracted by the newness anymore.”  With this realization also comes the responsibility to step up their performances a level or two.  “The beginning of the year, everyone was a bit tender and busy finding their feet, but now the second step will be to improve the quality and improve the results,” Lelangue believes.  The management will be looking to include additional European races to the team’s schedule, without overwhelming the group, which will mark 2009 largely as a year to consolidate the gains made in 2008.  “Not only have the riders grown, but John and I have also gained a lot of confidence in knowing who to pick for which races,” Chilcott explained.  “We can be very goal oriented now in choosing our rosters for any given event.”

Smells like Team Spirit

“Right from day one the team was just what I had been looking for and a really good fit,” Brent Bookwalter explained after his first participation in the World Championships for the US team.  “I feel like we all built off each other throughout the year and finished the year strongly and unified.”  That assessment is largely shared by the entire squad.    The trajectory of team building can be followed parallel to the rapid though steady progression from just fighting for position in the Tour of Qatar pack, to featuring in nearly all major breaks in the Tours of Romandie and Switzerland, to dominating challenging races like the Tour of Utah.  “Gavin and John have had a lot of confidence in the team from day one,” said Jeff Louder who has found a comfy fit on the BMC Racing Team.  “This certainly has been the most fulfilling year for me, not only because of my personal accomplishments, but mainly because I have watched the team grow and I am proud to have made my contribution.”  The team showed flashes of brilliance at the Tour de Wallonie which saw Steve Bovay coming away with the King of the Mountains jersey, but they really threw it into high gear with their performance at the Tour of Utah. Not only did Jeff Louder win the queen stage and the overall, but BMC took the team classification on the strength of multiple podium finishes for each stage.  “The guys really came together, and it was by far the best team effort I have seen in the last 2 season,” Jonathan Garcia said.  Garcia himself has been among the revelations to the management.  “Working with the guys now that I met at the Giro del Friuli last year, I have really enjoyed seeing them grow,” Lelangue said.  “Now they know that they have their place on the international calendar.”      

Big goals for ‘09

“We will focus ourselves as a stage race team, and so will want to add a couple more 5 to 7 day stage races as well as some hilly one day races,” Lelangue said.  “We will be looking to get more results while still always acting on the offensive.”   “Next year we will have to start getting more results,” Chilcott reasoned.  “The riders can expect that of themselves, and the sponsors have the right to expect that too.”  After a year of building a very solid foundation with a cohesive team of Americans and Swiss riders, this initial year of accommodation should naturally give way to more ambitious goals.