Jim Ochowicz continued to stress that there is no deadline as he looks to save his BMC Racing Team from going under, despite several high-profile riders being heavily linked to rival teams and time desperately running out.
BMC will pull the plug on sponsoring the team at the end of the season, and although Ochowicz has told his riders that there are potential sponsors 'in the pipeline', nothing has been signed or announced. Leading riders Greg Van Avermaet and Richie Porte have been linked to several teams, while Rohan Dennis is on the verge of signing for Bahrain-Merida, as reported by Cyclingnews earlier this month.
Without marquee riders, Ochowicz would struggle further to attract potential sponsors, although he denied reports that claimed he told reporters at the Tour de Suisse that he had 'no money'. On the contrary, those words were not accurately quoted and Ochowicz does have funds in the bank from secondary sponsors, such as Tag Heuer. Despite that glimmer of hope, the situation remains bleak.
"I don't have a deadline. I don't need a deadline," he told Cyclingnews and other reporters at the start of stage 4 in Switzerland.
"There could be a worst-case scenario where we don't find a sponsor, but there isn't a deadline or a magic date for the whole thing collapsing. Even if I had it all done now and was able to sit down and negotiate with the riders, that doesn't mean they're going to stay either."
Ochowicz has a history of finding sponsors that stretches back to the 1980s, when most of his current roster were either in nappies or not yet born. He also brought Motorola into the sport in the mid-1990s before they too dropped out at the end of the 1996 season despite riders such as Lance Armstrong, Sean Yates and Max Sciandri being on Ochowicz's books.
The situation in 1996 is comparable to one Ochowicz finds himself in now, but he emphasised that hope was still there. In 1996, Ochowicz headed into the Tour de France still looking for a sponsor only for several riders to jump ship to teams such as the then newly formed Cofidis.
"I've signed riders in December. I signed Phil Andersen in December. There are still going to be big riders signing contracts in December. You're not out of business because you come up with money a little bit later. You saw that last year with Slipstream. They pulled it together in September.
"The riders know we don't have a deadline," Ochowicz said. "I've been saying that since the beginning of the year.
"Of course 1996 was hard. I couldn't find a sponsor to replace Motorola. There is no guarantee. Raising money is never easy, to maintain a budget the size of ours. We need as much as our competitors need. I'm not going to put a number on it."
Ochowicz admitted that if the deadline, hypothetically at least, was today he would not have enough budget to keep a WorldTour team on the road for 2019.
As for Dennis, who won a stage and wore pink at the Giro d'Italia in May, and his being swayed toward Bahrain-Merida, Ochowicz added: "I think you better ask Rohan because I don't think that's true. If you want to believe that, you can. I don't know what that was, but I don't think that's the case. Ninety per cent is like having the pen in your hand and you're ready to sign. Rohan is recovering from the Giro, and his mind is on other things besides 2019. I can't speak for him, but I'd be surprised if that's reality at the moment. I'm not saying it couldn't happen."
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