Riders and staff at BMC Racing are still in the dark as to the team’s long-term plans for survival. The team are without a title sponsor for 2019, with no new contracts issued beyond this year and several high-profile riders linked to other teams. With less than a month to the Tour de France and two months to go until the UCI lifts their embargo on transfers, riders are already unsettled and looking around for options.
The BMC bike brand is set to end its time as the team’s main sponsor at the end of the season after the death of long-term backer Andy Rihs earlier this year. The team’s management have been searching for a new title sponsor for some time but at present only lower level commitments from secondary sponsors Sophos and Swisse Vitamins appear to be in place for next year.
In recent days the BMC Racing Management have looked to quell speculation and concern within the team. A recent communique was issued to riders and staff in which team general manager Jim Ochowicz looked to assure them that he was doing everything possible to secure a new title sponsor. The American, who has a long history in attracting companies to the sport that stretches back to the 1980s, told his riders that there were still ‘good prospects out there’.
“Since my last update in May, the management team has been busy continuing their efforts to secure a title sponsor for 2019 and beyond. We have some good prospects in the pipeline, but no one has fully committed yet,” the internal update said.
“I understand that some of you might be unsettled by this news but the management team remains 100 per cent focused and confident in our efforts.”
Riders are officially allowed to sign contracts with other teams when the UCI’s transfer window opens on August 1 but as Cyclingnews reported earlier this week Rohan Dennis is close to finalising a deal with Bahrain-Merida after a successful Giro d’Italia. Both Richie Porte and Greg Van Avermaet have also been linked to other major WorldTour teams.
Last month, at the Tour of California, Ochowicz told Cyclingnews that he had no deadline on finding a sponsor. However, BMC as a bike brand are set to supply bikes to the Dimension Data in 2019, with Cervelo bikes moving to Team Sunweb. There has been speculation that Ochowicz would secure support from Giant – currently with Team Sunweb – but the team would still be lacking a title sponsor to provide the bulk of the necessary budget to remain at their current level.
“It’s not crunch time,” Ochowicz said back in May. “Maybe for some people it is, but it’s not for me. I don’t consider it crunch time. We don’t have a deadline here for this. It’s still the first week in May, more or less. It’s a process, and it takes time. We’re in the midst of that process, so when something happens or not happens and we think it’s time to talk about deadlines and things we will, but that’s not today. I’m out searching for a title sponsor for the team. In between all that, everybody is doing what they do.”
Ochowicz is set to arrive at the Tour de Suisse later this week. His riders comprehensively won the opening team time trial on Saturday and lead the race through local favourite Stefan Kung. Richie Porte, Greg Van Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen are also part of the team’s roster in Switzerland and will form the squad’s core for next month’s Tour de France.
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