Cyclingnews understands that luxury watch brand Tag Heuer is set to become an important new sponsor of the BMC team in 2017.
The team has announced it will make what it calls a ‘special announcement regarding the future of the BMC Racing Team’ on the eve of this year's team time trial at the World Championships in Qatar on Saturday, October 8. BMC won the team time trial title in 2015 and are the favourites again this year.
Team owner Andy Rihs and team manager Jim Ochowicz will make the special announcement in Qatar with Grand Tour team leader Richie Porte and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans also attending. BMC said that other special guests will be at the announcement, with the team likely to be called BMC-Tag Heuer in 2017.
The arrival of Tag Heuer will help secure the longterm future of the team as the UCI awards two-year WorldTour licences for 2017 and 2018. Olympic gold medal winner Greg van Avermaet has extended his contract with the team and Nicolas Roche and Francisco Ventoso have been signed for 2017. However Philippe Gilbert and Taylor Phinney will leave for Etixx-QuickStep and Cannondale-Drapac, respectively.
Ochowicz did not respond to calls from Cyclingnews. However three different sources confirmed the arrival of Tag Heuer as a key team sponsor to Cyclingnews.
A leading brand and a Swiss family connection
Tag Heuer is one of the top ten biggest watch brands in the world with a turn over in excess of $800 million per year. The company was first created in 1860 and was bought by luxury brand company LVMH in 1999. Tag Heuer has sponsored several sports and leading athletes over the years, especially in motor sports and is currently a key sponsor of the Red Bull Formula 1 racing team. However it has always had links to cycling and these have strengthened in recent times.
Tag Heuer already sponsors the Haute Route series of extreme mountain rides and has its own timing company that is often used at races and other events. The Swiss brand also sponsored the 7-Eleven team more than 25 years ago, when Ochowicz was a young directeur sportif with the team. The Tag Heuer logo appeared on the green and red 7-Eleven jersey and Andy Hampsten and other riders often raced wearing Tag Heuer watches.
Jean-Claude Biver became the CEO of Tag Heuer in 2014. He is legendary in the Swiss watch industry after successful spells at Hublot and Omega. As his instagram profile reveals, Biver is a keen cyclist and has been riding a BMC bike for a while. He is the brother of former rider agent and Tour de Suisse organiser Marc Biver, who managed the Astana cycling team in 2007 when Alexander Vinokourov’s positive for blood doping virtually ended the team.
BMC was the bike sponsor at the time but quit the team, prefering to develop its US squad into a Professional Continental team with Ochowicz and then into the WorldTour squad that went on to win the Tour de France with Cadel Evans in 2011.
Current team owner Andy Rihs is extremely wealthy due to his millions earned in the hearing aid business but he has reportedly become tired of funding the estimated $20 million budget of the BMC team and has been looking to find a new sponsor. Talks with IAM Cycling owner Michel Thetaz to create a Swiss super team failed to work out, forcing Rihs and Ochowicz to look for a new backer.
Ochowicz has been unable to offer riders contract for beyond the 2017 season but it seems the team’s longterm future is now secure with the arrival of Tag Heuer.