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For any other team but BMC it would have been a great year
For the second year in a row, the BMC Racing Team has underperformed relative to its roster of talent and its budget, although many lower-budget teams would have killed for their results. Cadel Evans' third place in the Giro d'Italia was overshadowed by the team's abysmal Tour de France, and despite their best efforts, the team walked away with just one Grand Tour stage - that by Philippe Gilbert in the Vuelta a España.
While the team racked up 30 total wins spread across a dozen different riders, only five of those were WorldTour wins. The season started out with promise, thanks to Brent Bookwalter's cagey win from a three-man breakaway in the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar, followed by the squad's TTT victory the next day. The team stacked the top 10 of the final GC behind overall winner Mark Cavendish, with Bookwalter and Taylor Phinney rounding out the podium.
In Tour of Oman, Evans rode himself into a podium place overall with a strong performance in the Green Mountain stage, but the result, while impressive, also demonstrated that overall winner Chris Froome would be difficult to match over the course of the season.
Back in Europe, Thor Hushovd scored a stage win in the Tour du Haut Var, but a two-month long drought followed, and it would be half a year before the team earned even one WorldTour victory, although Evans' string of consistent performances and third overall in the Giro d'Italia were a highlight.
Tejay van Garderen's overall wins in the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge demonstrated his improvement as team leader, but while these races are the biggest in his home country, the Tour de France is the big show, and neither Evans nor van Garderen could find form or luck. Although Van Garderen suffered a crushing loss to Christophe Riblon on the Alpe d'Huez stage, it was not for lack of trying.
While the Tour team struggled, Van Avermaet began to turn around the team's fortunes with two stages and the overall win in the Tour de Wallonie in July. With the Tour over it was also announced that John Lelange had left the team. Within a few weeks the team began to improve their results.
Hushovd won two stages in the Tour of Poland, while Phinney showed he is more than just a time trialist by winning a road stage there.
In August, Hushovd won the overall Arctic Race of Norway and two stages, Mathias Frank and van Garderen each won stages in Colorado. The momentum finally built toward the Vuelta, where the team was extremely aggressive, making break after break until finally, Gilbert was able to walk away with a stage win in the second week.
Across the pond, Evans and trainee Silvan Dillier bagged wins in the Tour of Alberta and then Hushovd capped off the year with one stage in the Tour of Beijing WorldTour race.
What to expect in 2014:
The team acknowledged that it got the Tour de France completely wrong. Gone is the co-leader strategy between Evans and van Garderen. Next year Evans will focus on the Giro d'Italia entirely, while van Garderen will be sole leader for the Tour.
The team shored up its Grand Tour support squad, with the addition of Peter Velits from Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Peter Stetina from Garmin-Sharp and Colombian climber Darwin Atapuma.
The team did little to improve its Classics team via new recruits, and will instead rely on better honing of the calendars of riders like Hushovd, Gilbert and Phinney to get the most out of their strengths.
Rick Zabel, the son of Eric Zabel, has shown that he inherited the fast-twitch of his father, and should give the team a bit of power in the sprints over the next couple of years. Stetina was overshadowed a bit at Garmin, but is every bit as talented as his former teammate Andrew Talansky, and 'El Puma' Atapuma will be a huge bonus for the climbing team.
Mathias Frank will be sorely missed as a key domestique for the climbers, but the biggest loss will be the strength of Marco Pinotti, but the Italian remains on the team's technical staff. It still remains to be seen if Alessandro Ballan will be allowed to race, or if he will be banned for the 2009 doping allegations he currently faces in Italy.
Who to watch:
It will be interesting to see if Silvan Dillier can parlay his early results as a trainee with BMC into something of equal quality when he joins the WorldTour full time. A winner of Flèche Ardennaise and the Tour de Normandie in 2013, and leader of Tour de l'Avenir for three stages in 2012, the young Swiss rider has been turning out impressive results on the track this winter.