Rider contracts cannot be signed until the UCI’s August 1 deadline but there are no such rules governing team staff, a situation that BMC Racing’s Jim Ochowicz is well aware of ahead of the Tour de France.
In the last few days and weeks, Marc Biver has departed, with the team’s senior communications officer also handing in his resignation. Those two departures may not seem significant but the loss of Richie Porte’s primary coach, David Bailey, has caused a mini-reshuffle within the management. The Tour de France contender’s health and fitness will now be overseen by Marco Pinotti and the team’s medical staff.
It’s unclear if all three departures are linked at this stage, but with Biver seemingly keen to set up his own project for 2019, Ochowicz perhaps has one less internal problem to deal with.
“I’ve said enough. I’ve sent out a document for everyone to have. That was on Sunday, and today is Thursday. If I had a sponsor then I’d say I had a sponsor,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews after his team’s press conference at the Tour.
Biver was brought into the team last year in order to help the squad secure additional funding. Tag Heuer joined the fold, while Sophus came onto the scene at the start of 2018. It is unclear if Biver jumped before he was pushed, with Ochowicz unwilling to clarify the situation beyond confirming Biver’s departure.
“I don’t have anything to do with that. We have our thing and we’re our own entity. That’s the space that I’m working in and we’ll keep this thing moving. He’s no longer with the organization, and that’s all we’ll say on it. It’s an internal issue and it no longer exists.”
“Georges [ed. the former communication officer] resigned, yes. I can’t comment on that. It was his decision to resign. He didn’t tell me why.”
The team have a well-structured and highly regarded communications department but the loss of Porte’s coach is certainly noteworthy. Once again Ochowicz would not clarify the reasons for Bailey’s departure but he looked to play down the significance.
“And we’re not going to comment on any of those internal matters. It’s not a distraction. Richie is being coached by Marco Pinotti here and also Dr Max Testa. He also has Dr Scott Major, and most of that has to do with his sinus issues. We have a strong staff and we have good people. Everyone is replaceable, including myself. If I stop tomorrow then someone else could step in tomorrow. We have a strong organization.”
On the road, the team are looking to make the podium for the first time since Cadel Evans’ win in 2011. Porte was in fine fettle at the Tour de Suisse, winning the race overall while BMC Racing dominated from start to finish. The Tour team assembled around Porte is arguably stronger than Team Sky for the first nine days of racing, with Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Schar set to play pivotal roles in the team’s GC bid. That said, the ongoing speculation surrounding riders remains a hot topic. Porte is set to sign for Trek Segafredo, while Van Avermaet appears to be keeping his options open. At the team’s press conference the squad at least looked relaxed and united, with Ochowicz absorbing most of the questions surrounding the future.
“All the riders are relaxed and focused on racing this year’s Tour. I’m here now and this is what we’re doing.”
During the event Ochowicz made the point of 2018 being his 20th Tour de France. Whether it’s his last remains unclear but he talked up his chances of returning in the future, even if without BMC Racing’s backing.
When asked if he still had the fight to carry on, a relaxed Ochowicz replied: “Shit yeah, you know me.”
He did, however, acknowledge that finding sponsorship in 2018 was a far more difficult task than in the past.
“You can’t compare things now with what was going on with 7-Eleven when we lost them, and it was such a long time ago. That was a different world then and things didn’t move as fast. People weren’t as nervous about contracts and we never talked about contracts until August, at the Coors Classic, or something like that. The timelines have changed. I’m a fundraiser. I’ve been doing it since 1978, in sports, and at different levels.”
Different levels but the primary problem still exists, and without a sponsor, Ochowicz is likely to expect further departures.