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John Murphy (2nd left) has two exceptionally experienced mentors for the Spring Classics, Alessandro Ballan (left) and George Hincapie (right).
US rider ready for Flanders, Roubaix debut
US rider John Murphy believes BMC Racing Team can support a strong Classics roster, in spite of the team's glut of potential leaders. The 25-year-old will continue his debut at the Spring Classics this weekend when he forms part of BMC's strong line-up for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem.
BMC's roster will carry a number of experienced Classic contenders, including George Hincapie, Alessandro Ballan, Karsten Kroon and Marcus Burghardt, but Murphy dismissed any suggestion that there is a risk of tension between the team's leadership group.
"It seems like everyone wants to do their best for BMC," Murphy told Cyclingnews in Kortrijk, Belgium. "The priority is just to get one of our bikes across the line first and no-one's putting their own personal ambitions ahead of any other."
Murphy will race E3 Prijs and Gent-Wevelgem for the first time this weekend, but the two events also form part of final preparation for what is likely to be a key support role the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"The team told me from the beginning that I needed to be good for this period; this is the main section of my season. It's crucial for the team with the Classics guys we have," he said.
"For me the first goal is to get through them and then to help our team goals, which is to give one of our guys a result. I don't think you can approach these races for the first time with any personal goals in front of them. I don't know what to expect, I'm not sure how I'll cope with the workload, but I think I can do my best and be there to help in the end."
The 25-year-old's confidence has been buoyed by a sixth place finish at last week's Nokere Koerske. It was his first top-ten result as a professional on European soil and a confirmation of the direction he hopes his career to take. "It was definitely a confidence boost and showed me that I can and should be there.
"I think these Classics races are the sort I can do well at. Whether that means me personally getting a result, or helping guys like George [Hincapie], Marcus [Burghardt], [Alessandro] Ballan or [Karsten] Kroon, who are proven winners. If I can do it myself, I can help them do it and I think that's the way they look at it too; they each know they can do it, but they put their faith in their teammates as well."
Murphy has known the Classics would form the crux of his 2010 season since he signed with BMC last September. The team had already confirmed the signatures of Hincapie and Ballan, and Murphy's appointment came as part of a push to bolster support for the spring.
"I came on late but I knew straight away that my role was going to be to help these guys in the Classics. In my first year it's just a case of working out what I can do and I'm only just now starting the big ones so I'm really excited and motivated."
While Murphy is racing is first full professional season in Europe, he had made earlier forays into Belgium as part of the US National Team's development programme, with whom he finished 20th at the espoirs Paris-Roubaix in 2006. The experience was enough to convince him of where he wished to eventually ply his trade, but his passage across the Atlantic was delayed by a conscious decision to remain stateside with top domestic team Health Net.
"I always wanted to come to a pro team Europe, but when Health Net came along I thought 'I want to learn how to win.,'" he said. "No matter which race we entered [at Health Net] we always had a set plan of how we wanted to win and I wanted to play a role in that. To set goals and get wins before I made the step over to Europe."