BMC Racing General Manager Jim Ochowicz announced Monday that the US-registered WorldTour team is ending its development program after the 2017 season. The BMC Development Team has raced as an elite amateur squad since starting in 2013 and has propelled several young riders into the WorldTour.
"Since its inception, this team has graduated eight riders to our professional team," Ochowicz said in a statement released by the team announcing the decision. "All of these athletes have progressed well in BMC Development Team and as graduates to the professional team."
Current BMC Racing riders who came form the development team include Stefan Küng, Silvan Dillier, Tom Bohli, Dylan Teuns, Floris Gerts, Kilian Frankiny, Loïc Vliegen and Nathan van Hooydonck, who moved to the WorldTour team in May.
Although there was no explicit reason given for BMC's decision to shutter the program, Ochowicz's statement indicated the decision was driven by a changing market that couldn't guarantee riders wouldn't jump from the development team to BMC's competitors.
"Unlike prior years, the athletes today are for the most part being managed by rider agents," Ochowicz said. "These rider agents then propose these athletes to other teams, who may or may not invest in such a program. In essence, we are now developing athletes at a cost for both our team and other teams. The UCI offers no protection to development teams, and no regulations exist that protect their investment or the transfer of riders from team to team."
The development team had 15 riders from eight countries in 2017, but none was from the US. The team, which focused on Europe and raced sparingly in the US, scored 16 wins in 2016 and was directed by Klaas Lodewyck and Jens Blatter. Current US Continental riders TJ Eisenhart (Holowesko-Citadel) and Keegan Swirbul (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) rode for BMC Development Team, as did Alexey Vermeulen, who signed with LottoNL-Jumbo in 2016.
"We are proud of all the young athletes that participated in the program, and we wish them all great success for the future," Ochowicz said. "The staff over the years has been incredible and taken exceptional care of these future stars. The riders and staff should be proud of their time as members of BMC Development Team."