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BMC Racing owners address rumors of sponsorship concern

BMC Racing team owners addressed rumors that the team’s future is uncertain beyond 2016, saying that they are actively building towards 2017 and 2018

BMC Racing team owners Andy Rihs and Jim Ochowicz have addressed rumors that the team’s future is uncertain beyond 2016, saying that they are actively building towards 2017 and 2018.

Amid late-season transfer news and rumors, questions about BMC’s long-term future have arisen, due to the fact that several of the team’s biggest signings for 2016, including Richie Porte and Samuel Sanchez, are on one-year deals. Likewise, American Tejay van Garderen is on contract only through 2016.

In June, Ochowicz, the team’s general manager, downplayed reports of a possible merger with IAM Cycling in 2017, to form a Swiss-registered WorldTour team, though he acknowledged that he was seeking additional sponsorship.

At the USA Pro Challenge last week, Ochowicz would not comment on any rider contracts beyond 2016 but insisted that the team is “full speed ahead,” and that he is currently planning well beyond next season.

“Half of the stuff I read doesn’t even come close to the truth,” Ochowicz said. “People are speculating. We’re not uncertain about anything. We’re planning, and building, the team, for the future. I’ve got riders, and staff, we’re thinking far ahead in our planning. My job is to plan ahead. The strategy within the team is going that direction. I can’t predict when it’s going to stop, but we’re full steam ahead right now… my head is already in 2017, 2018.”

Rihs and Ochowicz are co-owners of Continuum Sports, which holds the UCI license for the WorldTour team based in Santa Rosa, California. Rihs is also the owner of BMC Switzerland, the team’s bike partner and long-term title sponsor.

Rihs, who is Swiss, made his money with Phonak Hearing Systems and sponsored a team under the Phonak brand from 2000 through 2006. He ended that association after Phonak rider Floyd Landis won the Tour de France but was stripped of the title. The following year the BMC program began in California as a Continental team managed by Gavin Chilcott. The team made the jump to Pro Continental in 2009 and to the ProTeam level in 2011. The team won that year’s Tour de France with Cadel Evans.

At the USA Pro Challenge, Rihs confirmed that the team is looking for additional sponsors but that BMC will “always come first. It’s not a question of the team, it’s a question of sponsorship only,” Rihs said. “The team will probably continue as long as BMC exists, but we are looking for additional sponsors. But BMC will always be first. Then, if Apple wants to come on, okay, we’ll be BMC-Apple. We can live with that.”

F0r his part, Ochowicz says he is open to all options, including that of the title sponsor position.

“We live on sponsorship dollars,” he said. “We don’t have a ticket gate to sell, and we don’t have TV rights to share. The only money we get is sponsorship dollars. So, of course we’re always looking for more money. I can’t predict whether BMC will always be the title sponsor, we may find someone that wants to take over the team — maybe, maybe not — but BMC will always be a bike partner, for sure.”