Big signings mark step forward for American team
A camp held this month in Zurich has given some of the BMC Racing team a chance to prepare for the 2010 season, a year which should mark a significant step forward for the Professional Continental squad. The American-registered, Swiss-backed set-up has made some high profile signings, and directeur sportif John Lelangue is feeling upbeat about the evolution.
“It is a big step forward to have guys like George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt, Alessandro Ballan and Karsten Kroon for the Classics, and also young riders like Mauro Santambrogio,” the Belgian told Cyclingnews. “We’ll have young American and Swiss riders on the team, and we are also glad to welcome the young sprinter coming from Norway, Alexander Kristoff.”
The team was set up in 2007, with Lelangue joining prior to the start of the 2008 season. It received wildcard invitations to several important events this year. While Matthias Frank’s overall victory in the GP Tell was the team's biggest win, the former Phonak boss believes decent progress is being made.
“I think there were a lot of good performances,” said Lelangue. “We had some good races in the US, and in Europe I think we made a good impression throughout the year in the races that we went to. We had several good top 10 results, including Matthias Frank's’ ride [to sixth place] in the Tour of Ireland.
“We also had a good presence in the ProTour events also, such as the Dauphine Libéré and the Tour of Romandie," he added. "They were the two most difficult races that we did. Marcus Zberg finished second on a stage of the former, crossing the line just behind Angelo Furlan (Lampre NGC) on day two. This and other results encourage him.
“We are making good speed in growing each year with the programme that we have,” he said.
Signing high profile riders like 2008 world champ Ballan, Tour de France stage winners Burghardt and Hincapie and this year’s Amstel Gold runner-up Kroon is a clear jump in level of the team. BMC Racing is currently ranked 33rd in the world, quite some way off the top 17 places that will have a guaranteed wildcard to the non-Grand Tour Historic Calendar races, but those names plus Lelangue’s past role with Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) should exert a considerable degree of leverage.
Providing the new signings perform to their usual standard, it bodes well for the squad. “We are basing our wildcards on the sports level of the team,” he said, when asked about the chances for such invites. “When we come to some of the Classics with guys like Hincapie, Burghardt, Ballan and Kroon, these have a lot of experience and have already made the podium or the top 10 in those races. The organisers will know that we want to come there to be competitive. Because of that, we are pretty optimistic in this.”
Given the changes in the team, there’s quite a bit of planning to be done between now and the start of the 2010 season. In order to help speed that process along, a get-together was held last week in the Swiss city of Zurich. Approximately half the riders were there, with the other half having their chance to work out their training and racing programmes, their bike and clothing fits and other matters when one is held in the US next month.
Neither camp is about training for the new season, according to Lelangue, as most will not start back on planned rides until mid-November. At this point in time the riders are relaxing and recharging their batteries; there will be time enough for a full training camp later on.
Next year, Lelangue lists being competitive in each of the big races as something that he is aiming for. “That will be a big step,” he said. “Our main motivation for the whole season is working for our leaders, developing our young riders, and trying to be always competitive and to represent the colours of BMC as well as possible."
Whether or not it will happen in 2010, he wants to see the team in the biggest event on the calendar. “We have a plan to go to the biggest races, including the Grand Tours. That includes the Tour de France," he said. "It will come with the sporting level increasing in standard.”
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