In five previous Tour de France appearances, BMC had claimed just one stage victory, Cadel Evans’ stage 4 victory when he went on to win the race overall. Utrecht would prove to be a second coming for the American team with another Australian, Rohan Dennis, securing victory in the time trial and with it, the yellow jersey to set the scene of success in the 102nd edition of the race.
BMC’s race would unravel on stage 17 to Pra Loup as Tejay van Garderen was forced to withdraw whilst sitting third overall. On the rest day, 24 hours previously, the best young rider from 2012 was confidently espousing his ambition of arriving in Paris with his podium position intact.
“The perfect scenario is that I’m wearing yellow in Paris. But I’m three minutes down so I don’t know if that’s a realistic goal. From now to Paris, if we can get another stage victory and remain on podium, that’d be good,” van Garderen said in his team’s press conference.
While the team was obviously hit hard from van Garderen’s withdrawal, BMC’s general manager Jim Ochowicz explained the team can take some pleasure from its three stage wins and a day in yellow.
“As far as pride is concerned, I am proud of the whole crew here," Ochowicz said. "The staff and the riders did a tremendous job. 'Impeccable' is how I would describe this team's efforts during this Tour de France. It was a great three weeks of racing and a lot of camaraderie in the group.
“A lot of teamwork. A lot of good feelings. A lot of highs and a lot of lows. But that is the Tour de France. We are happy this one is over and really looking forward to getting into it again next year."
The highs of the Tour included the reigning team time trial champions demonstrating their prowess in the discipline on stage 9, winning ahead of Team Sky but just missing out on van Garderen pulling on yellow.
Greg Van Avermaet, who was initially hesitant about starting the Tour with his wife pregnant with their first child, added another layer of success with his stage victory over Peter Sagan in Rodez, with BMC arguably one of the best teams in the race for the first two weeks.
Template for success
At 26, van Garderen is approaching his prime years as a professional cyclist. Pre-Tour he had spoken about his ambitions for the race, keeping in mind that there would be numerous years ahead in which he can make a title at overall success.
“I’m still young; I turn 27 next month, so I still think I have a couple of years where I can improve more,” van Garderen said.
Looking back, van Garderen and BMC can be content with the race but the ‘what if’ question remains. Chris Froome bounced back from his stage 5 exit from last year’s race to claim overall victory. Whether van Garderen can also be spurned on by a similarly disappointing exit from the race remains to be seen.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 19, sport director Max Sciandri explained it will take time before a full assessment can be made of the race.
“It’s a bit early to come to conclusion. The cut is too fresh, we need to go home and reassess, go over the details and leave the emotions to one side and come to a conclusion right at this point,” Sciandri said. “We need to respect the riders who are still here and still have two really hard days and Paris. We need to finish it off, cool down and learn from what went wrong.”
Samuel Sánchez picked up the baton as he became the team’s de facto GC rider after stage 17, riding to 12th place overall. The 37 year old had been rewarded on the second rest day with a contract for next season, quickly proving it was a wise decision by steadying the ship into Paris.
“Really for us, the Tour was good. Individual victories, the team time trial was a really important victory for us while the abandon of Tejay when third on GC was a hard moment for the team,” Sánchez told Cyclingnews outside the BMC bus on the Champs-Élysées.
Although 12th is the lowest Sánchez has finished at the Tour from seven starts, he added that they can take satisfaction from the final results considering the recalibration of ambitions post-stage 17.
“In the final week I stayed in the first group of top ten riders in the Tour,” Sánchez added. “12th position is not so bad for us but the perfect position for us is podium with Tejay. Me and the team, we are happy as the principle objective of the Tour was a stage win and the yellow jersey.”
The 2015 Tour provides BMC with the template they need to secure a podium position or overall victory in seasons to come. While Sánchez is approaching the end of his career and wont be providing top 15 results beyond next season, in Damiano Caruso and Dennis BMC have two riders developing their grand tour nous and can help share the load.
With rumours circulating over the arrival of Richie Porte at the team from 2016, BMC would enjoy another avenue to success with his arrival but will need to prepare methodically so ghat it does not suffer the same come down post 2011.