Leadership contests are destined to fill column inches in the build-up to the Tour de France, but BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz has confirmed that his team will enter the race with a fixed hierarchy - Cadel Evans as leader and Tejay van Garderen as his chief lieutenant.
Van Garderen finished in front of his leader at last year's Tour (the American was 5th, two places ahead of Evans) and impressed in winning the Tour of California last week. Simultaneously, however, Evans was riding his way to a podium finish at the Giro d'Italia and Ochowicz said that the Australian was always going to be handed the reins in July.
"Cadel goes in as captain, we've never said anything other than that and Tejay accepts that and has made similar comments," BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz told Cyclingnews in Riese Pio X on the final day of the Giro. "We're not confused about what we're going to be doing at the Tour and we take it one day at a time once we get to the start."
Although Ochowicz hailed Evans' third place finish at the Giro as exceeding expectations, he dismissed any notion that he had needed to produce that kind of result in order to guarantee his position in the BMC hierarchy at the Tour ahead of van Garderen. "No, it was only preparation to get the legs in the right cycle," Ochowicz said.
For his part, Van Garderen pointed out earlier in the season that riding himself into a high position overall while working for Evans - as he ultimately did last year - was not a contradiction in terms.
"It's a long race," Ochowicz said. "The start in Corsica is going to be interesting, there's a team time trial again and then we hit the Pyrenees. By the time we get to the Pyrenees the race will have already taken a bit of shape and we'll know where we stand when we get there."
It was Ochowicz himself who convinced Evans to ride the Giro, pitching the idea that he needed more racing in his legs ahead of the Tour de France. When Evans spoke of harbouring ambitions of a top-three finish before the race in Naples, his words seemed uttered more in hope than expectation but he eventually succeeded in becoming the Giro's oldest podium finisher since 1928.
"We felt like Cadel needed more racing before the Tour just based on the numbers of prior years and together we decided this would be a good place for him to be this month rather than trying to do other things," Ochowicz said. "He didn't have as much time to prepare as he would have liked but he did as much as he could and I think the outcome was more than we expected coming in here: we really weren't thinking podium.
"Having done that helps the team and gives us more motivation for the Tour. It's good for the whole team. When your captain is showing up like that, everybody's level steps up too. We're all now preparing for July and for us this is a big boost."
Although Evans declared himself pleased with his podium finish, he suffered disappointment on the penultimate stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo when his gears jammed in the steep final kilometres and he lost out on second place to Rigoberto Uran (Sky).
"When they're standing up on those bikes putting out 400 watts in those kind of conditions weather-wise, things can happen," Ochowicz said. "We're not even exactly sure what happened but there were some problems with the gearing and if you don't have the gear, it's a little bit difficult, especially in those final kilometres when you're just giving everything you've got left."
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