Evans could take years to replace, says Peiper

BMC Racing will take on a newer more youthful complexion in 2015 after the departure of some of their more experienced riders. BMC’s sporting director Allan Peiper says that the hole left by those riders, specifically Cadel Evans, could take the team several seasons to fill.

"I think losing Cadel is a void that we can’t fill up overnight," Peiper said during the team’s training camp this week. "There is a danger of having too much youth. While you’re waiting for them to develop in the appropriate time that they need, you need to heal a void where you might have to sacrifice some results." Evans, has all but retired from racing with just the Australian Nationals, the Tour Down Under and his own event the Great Ocean Road Race remaining on his calendar.

Another big loss for the team is Samuel Sanchez, despite only riding with the team for a season, his departure is one that will be greatly felt. The Spaniard was instrumental in Philippe Gilbert’s success at Amstel Gold while he also provided a viable option for BMC when it came to the Grand Tours. The team tried to keep him on for next season but it wasn’t to be.

"I expected the Olympic Champion to come along and be critical of everything but he was so much a gentleman, so much a statesman, so much a leader and supporter," said Peiper. "The team wanted to keep him and he wanted to stay but the offers at the beginning of the year were not acceptable to him and we went out and signed other riders. That’s sometimes the game with teams and managers. Sometimes it backfires."

A team with one leader

In terms of the Grand Tours, Tejay van Garderen will shoulder the sole responsibility of being the team’s leader. BMC have been moulding van Garderen to take up this role since signing him in 2012, and the American got his first opportunity to carry the team at the Tour de France in 2014.

After the route announcements of the opening two Grand Tours came out in October, van Garderen toyed with the idea of attempting the more favourable Giro d’Italia but the Tour will once again provide the focal point of the season for the 26-year-old. Peiper is confident that with a stronger set up in 2015, van Garderen can do good things at the Tour.

"The pinnacle for any team is the Tour de France and he is our only leader. Together with Tejay we made the decision that it was the pinnacle event of his year," explained Peiper. "It also comes down to how mature he is and how well he can handle himself. I think with a better tracking towards the Tour, he’ll have better shape going into the Tour and we’ll have a stronger team around him because the team’s focus is the Tour this year."

With van Garderen the team’s only leader, they are looking to develop the younger talent that they have within the team. New signing Damiano Caruso, who finished ninth at this year’s Vuelta a España, will lead the team at the Giro d’Italia. His performance there could see him make his debut at the Tour de France or return to the Vuelta in August.

Rohan Dennis is another of the team’s potential future stars. The Australian signed for the team earlier this year in a rare mid-season team switch and formed part of their World team time trial winning squad, and will also attempt the hour record in February.

"He’s an exciting prospect. How much can he develop?" Peiper said of the 24-year-old. "He’s got a good pedigree and a big motor. If you can time trial like, and win a mountain top stage in the California like that, then there’s a pedigree there that says there’s development… How far he goes in that really depends on how he climbs."

Classics Class

The team may have been forced to take a step back in their Grand Tour ambitions but it is full speed ahead in the Classics. Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet will guide the team through the Cobbles and the Ardennes.

Van Avermaet made a huge breakthrough in 2014 when he finished second to Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders. His good form resulted in him leading the Belgian team at the World Championships for the first time and Peiper thinks that there is much more to come from the 29-year-old.

"I see Greg possibly making one more step because he’s a different rider to what he was in 2013. He’s grown in confidence since the beginning of the year, in leaps and bounds, the way he intermingles with other riders and when he’s with the team there’s a certain swagger to his walk," he explained. "Greg was close to winning Flanders this year and he’s the leader of our flat classics campaign this year. We’re hoping that he can win a classic this year."

A different Phinney

Taylor Phinney was at the team’s training camp in Dénia but he is still in the midst of his recovery from a potentially career-ending broken leg. Phinney has been out of action since his crash at the USA National Championships and Peiper says that the lengthy recovery has made Phinney a changed man.

"He’s a different kid. He’s just been to the wall and back," he said. "There’s certainly a spark missing there. Maybe he’s brightened up over the last few days because of being around his teammates and the fun of being at camp but when he got here the sparkle in his eye was gone."

Phinney has noticeably changed from the happy go lucky rider he was 12 months ago but there is still a determination to him. The American hopes that he will be able to make it back in time for the Tour of California in May and still make his debut at the Tour de France. Peiper knows that it’s a tough ask but he has confidence in the young Phinney.

"California and the Tour are long shots but you have to have something to focus on. He’s the American GI Joe and if anyone can do it then it’s him."

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Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.