BMC look to replace Lelangue but Pinotti's future unclear

Following the surprise departure of John Lelangue BMC has been busy in the market, recruiting staff both on and off the bike. The American team has confirmed to Cyclingnews that Bobby Julich has joined the team full time as a trainer and that they’re still on the look-out for another sports director.

In terms of the rider roster, they have signed Peter Velits but General Manager Jim Ochowicz has confirmed that they are still looking to recruit more riders for 2014, while the future of Marco Pinotti’s place on the team looks to be in the balance.

The departure of Lelangue, coming less than 24 hours after the Tour de France, came as somewhat of a surprise. Rumblings of discontent had been rumoured during the Tour, but Ochowicz declined to confirm any such speculation, only wishing Lelangue luck for the future.

The departure of Lelangue has left the team short of directors, a matter reinforced after Max Sciandri broke his arm at the end of July. It has meant that Allan Peiper has had to take over responsibilities in the team car.

“Temporarily Alan Peiper is filling is as a DS for us. John left after the Tour, but we also have Sciandri down as he broke his arm. He’s had surgery but he’s not been able to be DS since after the Tour,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.

“We’re not commenting on it,” Ochowicz said when asked further about Lelangue’s departure.

“John decided that it was time to try something else. Those things happen in sport and we wish him luck. He’s a very capable person, and he’s been around the sport for many years and in a number of different capacities. Again we wish him luck in whatever his next venture is.”

When asked if the decision to leave the team had in fact been Lelangue’s, Ochowicz would only add that, “Like I said, we’re not commenting on it. We had a press release, and John resigned from the team.” The departure of Lelangue has been balanced out to some degree with the full-time recruitment of Julich. The former rider joined the team in May of this year on a short-term contact after being let go by Sky in the wake of USADA’s investigation.

“He was hired part time to work as part of the performance group that Alan runs. Within that, we have four coaches for the riders and we also have a nutritionist, two chefs, another person we hired as trainer and Bobby has now joined us as a full-time trainer,” Ochowicz said.

That still leaves the team one team director short, according to Ochowicz.

“We need five sports directors, and we have four right now and we’ll need to hire one more to fill that vacancy. How that’s structured, it’s too early to decide. It depends on the person we bring in.”

Rider roster

While Ochowicz has been busy recruiting directors, he has also been working in the rider transfer market. With Vacansoleil and Euskaltel set to pull out of the sport, the market has been swamped by a clutch of riders without squads for 2014. BMC have signed Peter Velits from Omega Pharma-QuickStep, along with two U23 riders, one of whom is Erik Zabel’son.

Ochowicz confirmed that the team are still on the look out for more signings, preferably climbers, but his hand may be twisted by who stays and who goes. Pinotti does not have a contract for next season and Ochowicz added that the veteran rider’s future is still in the balance.

“Pinotti is still undecided. He’s working on his next goal, which is the Worlds. He’ll be doing some more racing with us over the next few months, but I think he’s debating it in his own mind. It’s a decision that all riders must face in their careers, and I don’t want to be the one that pushes someone. It’s a personal decision and one that riders usually talk about with their families. I don’t have the answer to that at the moment.”

Asked if he wanted to keep Pinotti on the team, Ochowicz said, “Only if he’s absolutely motivated to do it and he’s healthy to do it. He’s had a couple of pretty difficult crashes here in the last year and that’s always a worry for me.”

One rider with a contract for next season is Alessandro Ballan. However the former world champion has struggled with his health since a major crash at the end of last year left him with several injuries.

“Ballan is on the team for next year. He’s still struggling with his injuries from last December. We’re still monitoring that but it’s something that’s above our ability to diagnose so he’s being treated by a specialist. He’s had several surgeries and injuries since the crash that need to be looked at from a medical level, not a sports level.”

“He’s still struggling with that. He was going to do Eneco but he’s out because he might be facing other issues with that. It’s a difficult situation for us and for him, and he’s not been on the roster very much for us this year. I hope he’ll be on the roster next year, but right now we need to get him going this year, but we keep having road blocks.”

Cyclingnews understands that Taylor Phinney has re-signed with the team, with his initial three-year contract set to expire at the end of 2013. Ochowicz would not confirm this however.

“We always looked at him as a long term investment, as we have with Tejay van Garderen. I don’t want to comment on that future yet, but there’s no reason as to why he would be leaving. I’m hopeful that at some point we’ll make his position with his known but not at the moment.”

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.