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Tour de France

BMC workhorses protect Evans at the front of the Tour peloton

Hincapie and Evans mix it up with the sprinters’ teams late in stage 2

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A key component to Cadel Evans’ success in last year’s Tour de France was the work done by his BMC Racing teammates to keep him out of trouble in the opening week. The first seven-to-ten days of the Tour are notorious for nervous racing and high attrition, and last year’s race did its utmost to uphold that reputation. Alberto Contador lost big time in the opening week in 2011 and this year’s top favorite, Bradley Wiggins, left the race with a broken collarbone.

“Let’s get to the finish line,” BMC Racing president told VeloNews of the team’s plans for Monday’s stage 2 to Tournai.

This year, with multiple crashes in the run-up to Sunday’s stage 1 finale in Seraing, Belgium, and spectators leaning out in front of the peloton to take pictures today as they raced at speeds upwards of 60 kph, Evans and his GC rivals must again survive the opening week unscathed if they are to fight for yellow in the mountains and time trials of weeks two and three.

To that end, BMC was a force on the front in the closing kilometers of today’s stage into Tournai. Despite the inevitable bunch sprint and the eager leadout trains of Lotto-Belisol and Orica-GreenEdge champing at the bit, Marcus Burghardt, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär and George Hincapie all spent much of the final 15km driving the pace to keep Evans out of trouble. Hincapie and Evans even rode tandem on the front leading into a tricky right-hand corner inside 5km to go, as Hincapie traded hard pulls with the sprinters’ teams. Evans never once left the American veteran’s wheel; such was their desire to stay safely ahead of any late-race trouble.

“It’s hard to stay in position when everybody wants to be in the front,” said Burghardt after the finish. Ochowicz was derided by some for selecting a Tour squad in 2011 that was heavy on brute, all-round strength and light on support for Evans in the high mountains. Those critics were quiet in Paris and this year, like in 2011, BMC’s workhorses seem intent to embrace the philosophy that the best defense is a good offense, even with 18 days of racing to go.

Race director Christian Pruhomme thinks that Tuesday’s 197km stage 3 into Boulogne-sur-Mer on the Opal Coast “will remind the riders of Paris-Roubaix,” and BMC director John Lelangue expects his riders to show themselves at the front yet again to keep Evans out of trouble. The Aussie could win the stage, as he did on the race’s fourth day almost a year ago.

“It’s like a small classic,” Lelangue said. “It’s a stage where we will need to stay safe and I think we will see a beautiful show in the last hour of racing.”

Expect Lelangue’s riders to see it from the front.

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