2014 Report Card: BMC Racing

Team starting to deliver on talent and potential

2014 BMC Racing Team report card
WorldTour ranking: 2nd (up from 10th last year)
Win count: 30 (Same as last year)
Top riders: Gilbert (14th), van Garderen (22nd), Van Avermaet (24th)

The 2014 season proved to be the closest that BMC have come thus far to matching its results to the capabilities of its roster. Philippe Gilbert found patches of his 2011 form, Taylor Phinney appeared on the cusp of his breakout year before breaking his leg, Tejay van Garderen rode to fifth at the Tour, Cadel Evans had a respectable final ‘full season' and while Greg Van Avermaet performed well he didn't have to save his better paid teammates.

Victory in the world championships team time trial was confirmation of the team living up to its potential and the result will bode well for 2015. The blemish of the season was undoubtedly the Alessandro Ballan saga was ended with the 2008 world champion being handed a two-year ban for doping and dutifully sacked from the team.

While there was no grand tour stage wins, Evans eight place the Giro, van Garderen's fifth at the tour and Samuel Sanchez's sixth place at the Vuelta a España were all signs of consistency as was the team winning in every month of the season bar July to rack up 31 wins and claim second place on the WorldTour rankings.

Unbelievably, the team has still only ever won one Tour de France stage.

2014 saw a changing of the guard with the 26-year-old van Garderen assuming the role of race leader for the Tour de France, while Evans switched his allegiances to the Giro d'Italia. The move allowed van Garderen to test his leadership skills before Evans called time on his career at the end of the season.

Second place at the Australian nationals, a thrilling stage win on the corkscrew and second overall at the Tour Down Under were signs of a focused Evans and talks of Tour leadership came up again, although questions were raised over how long the 37-year-old could sustain his condition for.

Phinney's win at the inaugural Dubai Tour, followed by Steven Cumming's success at the Tour Méditerranéen meant the team was toasting success much earlier than in previous years. Amaël Moinard then decided to end his four year wait for a win and van Garderen took a well-deserved maiden WorldTour victory with a stage at the Volta a Catalunya.

From the early season results, it appeared that the changes that Allan Peiper had introduced were working, and BMC was finally clicking and performing to its full capacity as a team. This was no longer the home of ex-world champions but riders hungry to win and race aggressively.

However, the proof in the pudding would be the classics where the team previously had come up short on the big stage. On the cobbles, the team backed Van Avermaet and he repaid the belief with an aggressive ride at the Tour of Flanders, posting his first ever podium result at a monument.

The decision to promote Peiper to the role of Sporting Director was undoubtedly a key reason behind Van Avermaet's result and, while the search for a maiden Monument continues into 2015, it's more of a case of when and not if.

Gilbert's win at Brabantse Pijl had many asking whether this was an anomaly or a sign of things to come in the Ardennes.

A few days later and Gilbert made a case for renaming the Cauberg to 'Phil's Hill', as Sanchez set up his Belgian teammate for his third Amstel Gold Race win added to the victory he took there at the World Championships. Suggestions of a second Ardennes triple were hosed down by the team, and then hosed by Gilbert himself as he finished tenth at La Flèche Wallone and eighth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Overall, it was a showing from Gilbert that would have pleased himself and the team, particularly with the announcement of the 2015 Tour de France route.

Evans had gone off the boil since his blistering Australian summer campaign once back in Europe but he turned it around at the Giro del Trentino, and the idea of a podium place at the Giro was being entertained by fans and journalists alike.

After taking the maglia rosa on stage 8 to Montecopiolo, the site of the first polemica of the Giro, Evans and his team refuted any suggestion that they had taken the race leader's jersey too soon. There was nothing sweet about Barolo though, as Evans could only watch on as a younger Rigoberto Uran became the first Colombian to wear pink. To his credit, Evans battled to place eighth overall in what was to be his final Grand Tour.

With van Garderen forgoing the defence of his Tour of California crown, Phinney led the way and was rewarded for his aggressive racing with an impressive solo stage win. A commanding second US time trial win a week later had Phinney as a favourite for the road race as well, until a moto driver scuppered his chances at the stars'n'stripes double and a debut Tour de France appearance.

Without Phinney, BMC's Tour would be all about van Garderen's GC aspirations. The American finished the race strongly as he jumped over Romain Bardet to fifth overall, matching his 2012 efforts. However, van Garderen was never truely in the mix due to bronchitis, among other factors, and while the loss of Atapuma to his femur break didn't help, it was an appearance that was ultimately underwhelming considering the off-season discussion over who would lead the team.

A second stint of racing in North American added plenty of shine to the season with back-to-back stage wins by Evans at the Tour of Utah and an opening day victory for Michael Schär. Dylan Teuns also took home the best young rider jersey while Ben Hermans finished fourth overall.

The USA Pro Challenge became the van Garderen show, with a popular ‘Jens Voigt variety hour,' as he won the race for a second time overall and celebrated two stage wins.

Following on from the Worlds win, Van Avermaet chipped in with a couple of end of seasons wins while Gilbert made history in China as the last winner of the Tour of Beijing. The late flurry of WorldTour points saw them end the year second on the team classification. Just reward and recognition for getting it together in 2014.

What to expect in 2015? BMC would do well to replicate this season with a few minor tweaks here and there. A reshuffle of the deck has seen a few old faces move on and, realistically, that's the kind of pragmatism the team needs. While the roster is yet to be confirmed for the upcoming season, the team has arguably reinforced where it needed to and ends 2014 better than it started the year.

The return of Atapuma and Phinney from their respective leg injuries will be a boost and both riders should be seeing their names in the win column before too long.

There doesn't look like being any change to the team's focus on the cobbled classics, Ardennes and the Tour de France as the major targets of the season in 2015 and perhaps that's all BMC should focus on.

The impact of new signings Alessandro De Marchi and Jempy Drucker should be felt immediately, particularly on the cobbles. For Damiano Caruso, it be a case of wait and see with the team yet to decide on what his role will be in 2015 but the Italian is a canny addition.

With the team signing several talented youngsters, in hindsight, 2015 may just end up being the year that BMC started something big.

Best signing: A rare mid-season transfer for Rohan Dennis immediately paid dividends for both parties at the World Championships and the young Australia should be reinvigorated by the move as he links up with Allan Peiper. Having finished his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana, the 24-year-old is being groomed as a GC rider and potential Grand Tour winner.

The Australian proved his ability to lead and win a race at the Tour of Alberta last season and his second place overall at the Tour of California in May was further evidence of his progression as a GC rider. Having ironed out any kinks during his first few months with the team, Dennis should hit the ground running in January with a national time trial title his first goal of the year.

Biggest loss: Steve Morabito joined BMC in 2010 and during his time with the squad proved himself to be an indispensable domestique. The Swiss rider was by Evans' side in 2011 when he won the Tour and was again by his side last season when he was third at the Giro. The reliable 31-year-old, who hasn't taken a personal win since 2007, crosses over to FDJ.fr next season in support of Thibaut Pinot in a move that may come back to bite van Garderen when up against his French rival in the future.

Man to watch: Rick Zabel will spend his career being compared to his father whether he likes it or not but the young German could end up with the better palmarès of the two. While he didn't race a Grand Tour in 2014, Zabel got plenty of miles in his legs this year as he clocked up 76 race days from January to October.

The 20-year-old had several top-ten finishes throughout the season and it shouldn't be too long before the former U23 Tour of Flanders winner starts converting those chances into wins.

 

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