2014 Team Previews: BMC

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Who are the sponsor? BMC which stands for Bicycle Making Company, and asyou’d expect, they’re a Swiss, er, bicycle making company that manufacture road and mountain bikes.

Nationality: American (with a Swiss Identity)

2013 Ranking: 10th

Past Stars: Marco Pinotti, George Hincapie

Selected Team Palmares: 1st, 2011 Tour de France (Cadel Evans), Stage, Tour de France (2011, Cadel Evans) 3rd, 2013 Giro d’Italia (Cadel Evans), Stages, Giro d’Italia (2010, Cadel Evans, 2012, Taylor Phinney and Marco Pinotti), Stages, Vuelta a Espana (2012+ 2013, Philippe Gilbert x3, 2012 Steven Cummings), 1st, 2011 Tour de Romandie (Cadel Evans), 1st, 2011 Tirreno Adriatico (Cadel Evans), 1st, 2011 Paris-Tours (Greg Van Avermaet), 2013 Tour of California and  Tour of Colorado (Tejay Van Garderen) Tour de France stages x 10, 2 Green Jerseys, 2006 Ghent Whevelghem (Thor Hushovd), World Road Race Championship, 2009 (Cadel Evans), 2010 (Thor Hushovd), 2012 (Philippe Gilbert).

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Brief Team History: Founded in 2007, they started as an American development team, before buying a number of stars in 2010 including the newly crowned world champion Cadel Evans as well as past champion Alessandro Ballan. They held the pink and yellow jerseys with Evans, which led to them becoming a ProTeam in 2011, where they helped Evans finally win the Tour de France. They won the world championship they so desperately wanted with Phillipe Gilbert in 2012.

Last year: Huge expectations have been made of BMC ever since they signed Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert on the back of Cadel Evans’ 2011 Tour de France triumph, but things haven’t quite gone to plan. The teams most consistent performer has probably been Greg Van Avermaet, but he doesn’t win much, and Evans has dropped off from his Tour winning level. Last year, things looked to be going well when they won the first two stages of the Tour of Qatar, but then they failed to win a race in March, and only took  a stage of the Giro del Trentino in April as the classics team misfired again and they failed to get on the podium of a monument. For an American team, they salvaged pride with the Tour of California win by Van Garderen in May, but the big surprise was dropping Evans into the Giro at the 11th hour, and an even bigger one was to follow when he came 3rd overall. However, the Tour was once again a disaster – the over hyped Van Garderen collapsed, salvaging a cruel second place at the Alpe d’Huez stage, whilst Evans seemed exhausted from his efforts in Italy. Hushovd’s winning return from injury offered some late season cheer, and their world champion Gilbert finally won a race in the rainbow jersey at the Vuelta – it was a good job he did, because we almost forgot he was wearing it.With the team they have, they were expecting much more.

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Transfer dealings: Another year without splashing out, perhaps to try and convince the team they have confidence in them. Marco Pinotti’s retirement leaves a big hole, but they’ve gone with the young talent approach again rather then trying to attract the big money riders. Rick Zabel will be trying to throw off his father’s shadow, whilst the two Peter’s, Stetina and Velits, should give some GC thrust, as should Colombian Darwin Atapuma – it is almost the fashion to have a Colombian now. For some reason they also got rid of Matthias Frank, who had a great year for them and was a valuable mountain man and who almost won the Tour de Suisse, which continues a trend for Evans at least of always losing key lieutenants.

Who are the star riders? For the General Classifications, they have Cadel Evans and Tejay Van Garderen, who are supposedly sharing out the grand Tours this year with support from Peter Velits. Their classics squad has suffered a similar fate to last year when they lost Ballan to a leg break before the season began: this year, they lose him completely, fired after being convicted of blood manipulation. Not that this is too much of a problem – they still have Thor Hushovd, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet to play around with, and  Taylor Phinney isn’t bad either as his top 10 at Milan San Remo showed, although the TT is where he will hope to shine. Having had a line for world champions the last few years, the team has decided to go up a level with the addition of Beijing Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez to the team at the 11th hour.

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Fashion police: Still not using Assos, and exactly the same as last year, meaning many ‘jokes’ about how they probably should have changed after the previous years failures.

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What are their targets? The Grand Tours are split between Evans for the Giro and Van Garderen for the Tour. Gilbert has to win a monument, and Milan San Remo is supposedly made for him now, so if he doesnt at least make the podium there you have to worry. Essentially, it’s all about the classics and the Tour – with a side helping of the American stage races – and with Hushovd possibly back to form, they could have a reasonable chance of success in the cobbles, plus Hushovd has won a stage the last 6 Tours he has competed in, so maybe they can turn it around.

What are they likely to achieve? This still looks like a team in transition, with the marquee riders too old and the young stars too young to make the grade. Crucially, there isnt any men in the middle of this age problem who look like they’re in a vintage period – everyone is either getting towards past it or only just out of rookie. Evans’ grit should however give him a good chance at the Giro, even against the tough opposition lining up for it, but don’t put the house on Van Garderen, unless it’s for the Tour of California – he’s still too young to properly challenge in what will be a very hard Tour. As for Gilbert, you just don’t know – he’ll still be marked, but whether he has his 2011 zip is going to be key. He’s become the Fernando Torres of cycling – a fantastic talent in danger of being remembered more for his failures than his glories.

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Components: BMC ride BMC bicycles obviously, most likely the Impec, Roadmachine and Grandfondo models, with Shimano drivetrains, 3T components, with Giro helmets. The kit is Pearl Izumi.

The Big Question(s): Can the team finally deliver on its classics promise? Will Gilbert be back to his 2011 vintage? Can Evans win the Giro?

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