BMC Racing: 2015 report card

More wins but no Grand Tour GC luck for American team

WorldTour Ranking: 6 (down from second in 2014)
Win Count: 33 (Up from 30 in 2014)
Top Riders: Greg Van Avermaet (8th in the WorldTour rankings), Philippe Gilbert (29), Rohan Dennis (38), Tejay van Garderen (49) and Cadel Evans (57).

The BMC Racing Team is one of the biggest and most successful teams in the UCI WorldTour, targeting both the Classics and Grand Tours and competing with other big budget squads such as Team Sky, Movistar, Tinkoff-Saxo, Etixx-QuickStep and Astana.

The personal backing from Swiss millionaire Andy Rihs and his BMC bike brand has allowed team manager Jim Ochowicz to, gradually, build a successful squad that has some of the biggest riders in the sport on its roster and wearing the team’s standout red and black colours. Rihs is reportedly considering ending his backing and Ochowicz is looking for a major new sponsor to cover his big budget, making 2016 a vital year for the long-term future of the team.

BMC likes its riders to be in the results and fighting for ranking points whenever possible; 13 different riders won races in 2015 for a total of 33 different victories. It started with Rohan Dennis’ victory at the Tour Down Under in Australia and ended with BMC’s second world title in the world team time trial championships in Richmond.

In between, riders won in almost every stage race and also confirmed their team time trial crown by winning against the clock in the Criterium du Dauphine, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana. The hard work of time trial coach Marco Pinotti and specific training for the discipline were keys to their success. Dennis also set a new Hour Record in February. It only lasted a few months but help confirm BMC as the time trial kings of the peloton, ahead of Orica-GreenEdge, Etixx-QuickStep and Team Sky.

Results wise, BMC’s low point of the season came in the Spring classics. Greg Van Avermaet fought courageously after finally being cleared of links to ‘ozone therapy’ doctor Chris Mertens. He was aggressive and as good as his rivals but finished third in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in 2015, and was fifth at the Amstel Gold Race, handicapped by the lack of a fast finish. He needs to attack and win alone but that rarely happens with the likes of Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb as his big rivals. Van Avermaet won a stage at the Tour de France out kicking Sagan but it was of little consolation. He was close to getting across to Sagan at the world championships in Richmond but that failed when Edvald Boasson Hagen refused to work with him.

Philippe Gilbert went close to winning the Amstel Gold Race yet again but his spring ended abruptly when he crashed at speed in Fleche Wallonne. He missed Liege-Bastogne-Liege and so his palmares was far poorer than usual in 2015. He won two stages at the Giro d’Italia but was ruled out of the Tour de France due to the problems of a hairline fracture caused in his Fleche Wallone crash. He was second in the Clasica San Sebastian and raced until the Abu Dhabi Tour but without taking a win.

The Tour de France started off in style for BMC with Rohan Dennis winning the opening time trial in Utrecht. He quickly lost it as the team focused on protecting van Garderen but he also played a key role in the team time trial stage victory. Van Garderen could not stay with Chris Froome in the Pyrenees but showed consistency and fight, going into the Alps in third place overall. He seemed on track for a podium place but was struck by respiratory infection and temperature and abandoned on stage 17. After losing his shot at a podium place, he described it as the most terrible day in his racing career.

Other riders picked up the baton during the summer, and Taylor Phinney made a stunning comeback from his career-threatening leg fracture at the USA Pro Challenge near his home in Colorado by winning the first stage. Brent Bookwalter and Dennis won other stages and shared the race lead before Dennis secured overall success ahead of Bookwalter.

Alessandro De Marchi won a stage at the Vuelta a Espana after struggling with injury for much of the season, and then BMC dominated the team time trial world championships in Richmond. A team victory was arguably the best way to symbolise BMC’s 2015 season.

What to expect in 2016

BMC has made few changes to its roster for 2016, with Richie Porte the only big-name signing. The team has also invested in young talent, promoting Belgian Loic Vligen and Dutchman Floris Gerts from its development team. BMC will no doubt allow them to develop over time, along with other young riders such as Rick Zabel, Dylan Teuns and Stefan Küng – who has recovered from fracturing vertebrae at the Giro d’Italia and is again mixing track pursuiting with time trialing and the Classics.

Gilbert and Van Avermaet will again lead BMC’s attack on the Classics, perhaps again squabbling about team leadership and their race programme. They can count on the solid support of Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Marcus Burghardt and Michael Schar.

Gilbert told Cyclingnewshe would love to target the Tour of Flanders but seems to have conceded that his fellow Belgian Van Avermaet has that role after finishing third in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in 2015. Van Avermaet will surely strike lucky sometime and use his Classics skills to win a monument. Gilbert will have to be more opportunistic and target the Ardennes Classics.

The arrival of Richie Porte has raised BMC’s ambitions in the Grand Tours and he will join forces with van Garderen to create a double-pronged attack at a place on the podium at the Tour de France. Anything else will be regarded as failure.

Van Garderen’s failure to finish both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana is slightly worrying but the American has shown he has the ability to compete against Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana et al.

Phinney will surely be back on form after his terrible crash in 2014. He showed flashes of brilliance during his comeback this year by winning a stage at the USA Pro Challenge and securing a place in the team that won the world team time trial title. The Olympic time trial course in Rio could be too hilly for the powerful American but expect him fight in time trials and for a key role in the cobbled Classics team.

Biggest loss going into 2016

Peter Stetina has moved to the rival American team Trek Factory Racing for 2016 while Klaas Lodewyck and talented young Australian Campbell Flakemore have both retired. Flakemore’s decision to give up on a possible successful career should raise questions about the demands of professional cycling but he will no doubt be quickly forgotten with other riders keen to take his place in the peloton.

BMC’s biggest loss in 2016 could well turn out to be Cadel Evans. He remains an ambassador for the BMC bike brand and the team but a rider with his experience would be of vital support to van Garderen and Port in Grand Tours. Of course, Evans was happy to call it a day at 38 and perhaps never forgave the BMC team for nudging him to ride the 2014 Giro d’Italia when he had hoped of again riding the Tour de France.

Biggest signing for 2016

Porte is without a doubt the biggest new signing for BMC for 2016. The Tasmanian arrives with big hopes and a rich palmares from his time at Team Sky. He has yet to prove his ability as a team leader in a Grand Tours after his difficult time and eventual withdrawal at the 2015 Giro d’Italia. He will be 31 in January and is keen to final have his chance in the Tour de France after working for Chris Froome in recent seasons.

At Team Sky Porte was given a protected role in other stage races and so we can expect to see him in charge at the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie, and the Criterium du Dauphine before July.

One to watch in 2016

The Porte-van Garderen partnership and their relationship will be scrutinised closely and be vital to the long-term future of the BMC team. However, Rohan Dennis will arguably be the rider to watch and could emerge as BMC’s surprise Grand Tour rider of 2016. The Australian impressed massively in 2015, even though his season was disrupted by his Hour Record attempt on the track.

His time trialing ability could help him if he is named as team leader for the Giro d’Italia and he would give him vital Grand Tour leadership experience. He will no doubt start the season on form as he defends his Tour Down Under victory from this year.

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