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Ballan on Qatar: ‘It’s too fast for training’
The beefed-up BMC squad began its racing season in earnest at the Tour of Qatar this week, with newcomers like former world champion Alessandro Ballan and U.S. national criterium champion John Murphy lining up alongside team veterans like American Jackson Stewart.
Their reactions to the aggressive racing and the windy conditions in the desert were mixed.
“It’s crazy here; it’s a really unique race,” Stewart said. “We rode well in the TTT together, and I think we got a respectable time.”
Ballan, who will be joining the likes of George Hincapie and Marcus Burghardt for the team’s spring classics program, said he was enjoying being in Qatar for the first time.
“The racing is too fast for training, though,” Ballan joked after the second stage when the crosswinds and aggression of Cervélo and Quick Step ripped the peloton apart. “No, no. It’s good here. It’s good training for the classics.”
Ballan won the Tour of Flanders in 2007. He joined BMC this year from Lampre.
Murphy came to BMC this year from OUCH-Maxxis. In Qatar, Murphy made the front echelon on the decisive stage 2 — then flatted.
“In the fight for the echelon I got pushed into the dirt,” Murphy said. “And when you’re in the dirt, you’re going to get a flat.”
After getting a wheel change, Murphy was chasing back on through the caravan when the car in front of him slammed on the brakes, causing him to crash into the back of the vehicle.
“It was just one of those things were it was shit luck, but you can’t really help it,” he said.
For Stewart, a BMC racer since the team was an upstart program doing domestic races in North America, the expansion of the team to include the likes of Ballan, Hincapie, world champion Cadel Evans is exciting.
“For me, it’s kind of a dream come true to be on such a big program,” Stewart said. “And to have been able to come up with the program, know their philosophy and how they want to approach things, it’s cool. Every year I celebrate just making the cut, as every year the team grows by such a level. It’s an honor, you know?”
This year Stewart has Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders on his schedule. He did Roubaix with BMC last year but has never ridden Der Ronde.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Just hoping to pull my weight, and hold my position.”
As BMC continues to grow, Stewart’s position in the peloton keeps getting better and better.