Given that the team’s main sponsor is a Swiss bike company, BMC Racing directeur sportif John Lelangue had extra reason to be pleased with Marcus Burghardt’s solo victory on stage five of the Tour de Suisse.
Burghardt’s win into Frutigen ahead of Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Transitions) and Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Doimo) was the third of the season, following on from Cadel Evan’s victory in Flèche Wallonne and on stage seven of the Giro d’Italia. The world champion is the most prominent member of the team, but Burghardt’s win underlines that it’s not just about one rider.
“It was a good day,” the Belgian told Cyclingnews. “The plan was to go in the breakaway with one of the five guys who are more than ten minutes back. We knew there was some opportunity today – it was not a sprinter’s stage, it was a more difficult one. Also, there was a crash yesterday and big mountains tomorrow, so the conditions were right.
“In the briefing this morning I asked the five guys to try hard at the beginning of the stage, really early. [Karsten] Kroon tried first, then Frank, then Marcus was in the front after ten kilometres. Once it was done, I think they were just turning there, saving enough. It is a good victory for the team. We also have three guys for the GC with [George] Hincapie, [Steve] Morabito and Moos, so we hope to have a strong stage tomorrow.”
With the Tour de France around the corner, it's a good time for Lelangue to take stock and see where the team sits amongst its ProTour rivals, despite the fact that it operates as Professional Continental outfit.
“I think there are plenty of guys [who can get results],” says Lelangue. “When you look at the UCI team classification, we are in the top ten. We have already five guys with points on the world calendar - Wyss, Kroon, Hincapie, Bookwalter and Cadel, so it was not only Cadel, even if of course he is our strong leader. Now we have a sixth guy. In a roster of 21 guys, having already six guys with points is not so bad, and that’s only from HC races.
“I have always said that we are trying to build a strong team around Cadel for the stage races, but even if he is not there, I think we have a chance to enter the top ten with one of the top ten with one of the three guys, Morabito, Moos or Hincapie, and then to try to find some opportunity with the others. On the first day we tried it with Frank, he was taken back with three kilometres to go, but we tried. Tomorrow it is something else, it is more about the GC, but if we have more opportunities in the second part of the Tour de Suisse, we’ll try again.”
Rumours have linked Fabian Cancellara with a possible move to the team for 2011. He’s one of the most famous Swiss athletes and would be a perfect fit for the BMC brand, and would also be certain to bring plenty of victories. Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis has said that he is quite confident of finding a replacement sponsor for his team however, and is determined to hold onto one of his top riders.
Cyclingnews queried Lelangue about the talk of a transfer, but he would not be drawn on the team’s plans for next season. “The team is always expanding, but I think we have plenty of time. There are also rules that the team cannot comment before the first of September,” he stated.
“I think that this is already a really good team. Look at the team classification. For me, it is there where you can see where is the team. Not only in one day racing, not only on stage racing, not only on big Tours, but in the whole season. When you see that we have six riders with points, or that we have Cadel with number one in the world, I think that we are already really happy.”
Looking towards the Tour
Cycling’s biggest race, and therefore BMC Racing’s top objective of the year, will start in just over two week’s time. Some of the big contenders for the Tour de France are in the Tour de Suisse, using the event to test their form and to clock up more racing kilometres before heading to the start in Rotterdam on July 3. Others have used the Dauphiné as their final stage race, while BMC’s Cadel Evans last competed in the Giro d’Italia.
Lelangue is confident that he will be ready for the Tour. “I think it was a strong Giro for him. It was a hard Giro, but he has taken some recovery days and he is back training and doing reconnaissance,” he said. “Now the next deal is the Tour. We have a few weeks until the start… we know that it is not really the beginning which is important. He can recover and we are doing a good job there to protect him also.”
Evans has been twice second, as well as fourth and eighth overall in La Grande Boucle. He’s having his best-ever season and Lelangue feels he should once again be a contender.
“I think he is going to be competitive. That is sure,” he stated. “Everybody likes to say that we are going for the yellow jersey, but I think we are going to the podium and we will see what happens. We will do our best to reach the highest step of the podium, the highest step of the classification that we can get.
“The lineup has almost been decided now. A big part will be from my group here [at the Tour de Suisse]. Of course, Cadel is joining us, and maybe one or two other guys coming from the Giro team. For the moment, those are recovering and training.”
He said that he would wait until after the national championships before finalising and announcing the definite list of nine riders. That gives him, and them, a chance to see who is in the best form. It also gives time for others to strengthen their claim, as Burghardt did yesterday.