After years of an aggressive but linear progression, the BMC Racing team is making a huge leap with the addition of World Champion Cadel Evans, three-time US National Champion George Hincapie 2008 world champion Alessandro Ballan in its quest to race at the Tour de France in 2011, if not earlier.
The riders made their way to Southern California, some flying in from Australia after racing the Tour Down Under, some riding down from Santa Rosa in Northern California. The team set up a media day so we could take photos during an easy training ride and get a chance to chat with the riders. We found everyone on the team, from riders to staff, to have an upbeat positive attitude and enjoying being together – lots of laughs were heard throughout the day.
See photo gallery from the ride.
Team training camps serve many purposes, one is for the riders to get their new gear and talk schedule with management. Another one is to build cohesiveness to get ready for a season that will include ProTour races and hopefully many Grand Tours for the UCI Pro Continental team. The team was awarded a wildcard status which opens the door to invitations to all the big races. While they are still waiting for the official invitation for the Tour de France, the team is fairly confident that they will be to the big show.
For Hincapie, a training camp is a great tool to enable team bonding. “We work out together, we do core in the morning, we do riding together, we go out to dinner, thats really the main way to build the cohesiveness.”
Another way to build cohesiveness is to race together. Hincapie had just flown from racing at the Tour Down Under, the first ProTour race for the team.
“We had a great time at Tour Down Under, the guys got along great. We were all super excited the reception for Team BMC in Australia.” said Hincapie. “Three days in, people were wearing BMC jerseys on the side of the road, everybody loves Cadel, he’s Australia first ever Road World Champion. Things like that really help the ambiance out on a team and so far it’s been great. I think that the team has gone above and beyond what I expected.”
For Evans, building cohesiveness starts with showing what he can do to his teammates, so they can believe in him. “I always, and this has always been the case, try to prove to the team that I’m worthy of their support and that’s what I always try to do. Going to Tour Down Under, being to be able to part of the racing is a good start to get the confidence of the riders.”
One example is when he sprinted to third place on stage 3 at Tour Down Under. “I wasn’t winning but George came to me ‘what didn’t you tell me, I would have helped you we could have won that’. Next time you know, for now I just want to show what I can do. “ laughed Evans.
Another aspect is mentoring. “I’ve been racing for seven or eight years now, I have some experience and maybe some helpful advice for some of the younger riders, I try and work pretty hard on that level also because it’s nice to help young people coming into the sport.” said Evans. Helping others so they can help him in the future.
Suffering together is also very important. “Actually Down Under was hard, it had some days where was crosswinds all day.” said Hincapie. “It was very important for Cadel to see how I work in the crosswinds, how I helped him out and I think he was quite pleased with that. It’s just as important to do hard races as well, it’s good to see how people react under pressure.”
Evans went into the Tour Down Under with no expectations about himself or of his teammates Hincapie, Karsten Kroon, Danilo Wyss, Martin Kohler, Mauro Santambrogio and Thomas Frei.
“I went in with an open mind and well I hope they’re cool guys to hang out with because I’m going to be stuck with them for years probably,” laughed Evans, “but I didn’t go in with any sort of expectations or anything. I just wanted to start working together as a unit and hopefully perform well under race situation, it’s always different there.”
He found that the younger riders were very motivated and the veterans knew what they were doing.
“I can really understand why Lance had George alongside every time he rode the Tour. I can see why Stuart O’Grady spoke so highly of someone like Karsten Kroon because he really knows his thing, how does he call himself? Just call me Karsten crosswinds Kroon.” chuckled Evans. “He was always in the gutter, pushing people away and George was like ‘okay now we go’. When you have somebody that strong that can take up there, that’s something else. But I think we all really worked well together as a team. Martin Kohler, it was his first ProTour race, he went into the break the first day, took the sprinters, young rider’s jersey, that’s really nice to see.”
The team will remain in Agoura Hills until January 31 where they will continue to ride together, do core training together, learn about their sponsors and generally just hang out together.
On Saturday night, the team watched a video of the 1986 Tour de France, yes the John Tesh version. It showed that the scrappy upstart young American 7-Eleven team could compete and complete the toughest stage race. Something that should resonate with the riders who potentially could be riding their first Grand Tour this year.
“It was pretty cool, honestly it was pretty amusing we were getting to see Och, he told us he was 34 then and then all these guys that are the heroes of American cycling. You could really get the sense that they’re flying by the seats of their pants, its cool to see these guys.” said Jeff Louder. After eleven as a professional cyclist, racing in both Europe and North America, Louder is on the short-list for the Giro d’Italia, his first ever Grand Tour. And there’s a good chance that he would also race the Tour de France the reason he started to race – assuming that the the team is invited of course.
The 7-Eleven team was founded by former U.S. Olympic cyclist Jim Ochowicz who is now president of the BMC Racing Team.
“I told Och, ‘man you guys are heroes, you’re doing stuff that had never been done as far as Americans are concerned just to see from that point to this point is so big and now America is one of the bigger, three ProTour teams, BMC and up and coming, the depth of American cycling is pretty great. It’s pretty cool. “ continued Louder. He then added with a laugh, “Also I want to say that their answer were not canned, they were doing interviews, Bob Roll, Ron Keifer, they struck me as surfer kids ‘oh man it’s wild’, even Eric Heiden, he was just so goofy. It was fun to watch, these guys are cool. “
Hincapie who has raced in the Tour fifteen years also enjoyed the show. “I thought it was great and I actually tweeted about it, some people took it the wrong way when I said old school.”
Hincapie concluded. “I meant that in the sense that we were watching the pioneers of US cycling with Jim Ochowicz leading that way, guys like Davis Phinney, Ron Keifel, Alex Tieda being a Canadian, Chris Carmichael, Bob Roll, these guys paved the way for all of us to do what we’ve done. Back then they were newcomers to the race and every little success was a big deal, look how long cycling in America has come. Thanks to them that that happened.”
The next two races on the schedule for the team will be the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman; team is sending Alessandro Ballan, Marcus Burghardt, John Murphy, Alexander Kristoff, Jackson Stewart, Simon Zahner, Michael Schär and Martin Kohler under the leadership of John Lelangue.
Stay tuned for interviews with Hincapie, Evans, Burghardt, Ballan, Murphy, Louder and Chad Beyer.