By Neal Rogers
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles on domestic road teams. Watch for stories on other American teams over the coming weeks.
Second-year pro team BMC Racing announced its 2008 roster this week, unveiling a squad capable of winning races on both sides of the Atlantic.
[nid:71541]The team signed nine new riders, including Americans Tony Cruz (from Discovery Channel), Brent Bookwalter (VMG-U.S. national) and Jeff Louder (Health Net-Maxxis), as well as South African Darren Lill (Navigators Insurance). Seven riders are returning, including marquee names such as Swiss Alex Moos and Americans Mike Sayers and Jackson Stewart.
Former American pro Gavin Chilcott returns as the team’s general manager. Charlie Livermore, who ran the successful Volvo-Cannondale mountain bike team in the late 1990s, is also back as training consultant.
BMC is one of only two American teams to have registered as UCI professional continental, a designation that opens the doors for invitations to international races such as the Tour of Qatar, which BMC will start on Sunday.
Though it is registered with USA Cycling, the American/Swiss BMC squad has shades of the former Phonak ProTour team that ultimately disbanded following Floyd Landis’ positive drug test at the 2006 Tour de France. Swiss team owner Andy Rihs owns Phonak Hearing Systems as well as the BMC bicycle brand. Belgian John Lelangue, who directed Phonak in 2005 and 2006, has signed on to direct the team, and Moos rode for Phonak from 2001 through 2006.
“I love cycling, that is why I am back,” Rihs said on the team website. “It is my passion. The best ideas for my personal life and business come to me on a bike. The repercussions for Phonak as a brand at the time of sponsorship were huge. Of any hearing-aid manufacturer out there, Phonak is the only name people recognize. BMC sees the U.S. as the most important market to crack.”
The team has sought to distance itself from the doping scandals that plagued Phonak by working with the independent Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE). As with Slipstream-Chipotle and High Road Sports, ACE will carry out blood and urine tests on BMC riders throughout the entire year, and any deviation in a rider’s values, a team press release said, would “result in the severest consequences.”
“We have a zero tolerance for doping,” Chilcott said. “We believe in clean sport and will do everything on our side to set a credible example. Above all, it’s important that the riders are convinced of clean sport, as this is the only way to resolve the problem step by step.”
The team had signed former Health Net-Maxxis star Nathan O’Neill to ride in 2008. However, O’Neill is fighting a positive result dating back to the 2007 Tour of Elk Grove and is not listed on BMC’s roster.
With an average age of 25, BMC Racing is continuing on its mission of “results while building for the future.” And though Cruz, Sayers and Moos are BMC’s most experienced riders, management has chosen not to designate a leader, instead focusing on team spirit.
“With only 16 team members, everyone will have the opportunity to develop,” Lelangue said. “There will not be one designated leader — rather everyone will be given his chance to succeed as the race situations dictate.”
The team, which changed its colors from black and red to black and white, spent the last two weeks at a pre-season training camp in Palo Alto, California, site of the prologue for February’s Amgen Tour of California. For Qatar, BMC has sent Swiss riders Danilo Wyss, Martin Kohler and Steve Bovay as well as Americans Scott Nydam, Taylor Tolleson, Stewart, Cruz and Sayers.
“We have ambitions for this race in particular, but it will also be beneficial for the guys getting ready for the Tour of California,” Lelangue said on the team’s Web site. “For Qatar we always want to be on the offensive. It is largely a sprinter’s paradise, so we have brought three of our strongest sprinters in Kohler, Wyss and Cruz. We will take each day and set up one of the three sprinters. As for the other riders, we will be certain to make an appearance in every big breakaway and always stay on the offensive.”
Because the U.S. represents the most important of 28 markets where BMC road, mountain bike and triathlon bikes are sold, the team will focus on the American stage races in California, Georgia, Utah and Missouri, as well as Critérium International and the Tour de Wallonie.
The squad also hopes to participate in Switzerland at the Tour of Romandie and the Tour of Switzerland, and is working toward winning a wild card invitation to events such as Paris-Roubaix during the early races of the 2008 season.
BMC Racing Team 2008
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Darren Lill, 26, South Africa
Alex Moos, 36, Switzerland
Martin Kohler, 23, Switzerland
Danilo Wyss, 23, Switzerland
Steve Bovay, 24, Switzerland
Jeff Louder, 31, USA
Scott Nydam, 31, USA
Ian McKissick, 28, USA
Brent Bookwalter, 23, USA
Taylor Tolleson, 23, USA
Jackson Stewart, 28, USA
Tony Cruz, 37, USA
Jonathan Garcia, 27, USA
Mike Sayers, 38, USA
Nathan Miller, 23, USA
David Galvin, 23, USA
Gavin Chilcott, general manager
Charlie Livermore, training consultant
John Lelangue, directeur sportif
Georges Lüchinger, media officer