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Rumors of BMC’s demise greatly exaggerated

BMC Racing is rumored to be seeking a new title sponsor. Team officials deny that the team is at risk of folding and say that BMC wants to remain involved.

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BMC team management says its ongoing title sponsor search is not an indication of imminent collapse.

French paper l’Equipe reported that BMC team owner Andy Rihs indicated to confidants that he would pull out of the title sponsorship of his American-registered team at the end of 2017. BMC would remain the bike sponsor only. This would cause the team to fold unless team management could find a new title sponsor.

General manager Jim Ochowicz denied the report Tuesday morning. “I’m pretty close to Andy, I haven’t heard that one. No,” he said.

The team has been seeking a title sponsor for at least a year. Rumors of the team’s demise previously cropped up at the end of the 2015 season, when it became known that two of the team’s new, high-profile signings, Richie Porte and Samuel Sanchez, were brought on with one-year contracts. American GC contender Tejay van Garderen also has a contract that ends this season.

At the time, Rihs denied the rumors while indicating that he was indeed seeking additional sponsorship, but did not put a deadline on that process. He also stated that BMC would remain the co-title sponsor under any new agreement. “The team will probably continue as long as BMC exists, but we are looking for additional sponsors,” he said. “But BMC will always be first. Then, if Apple wants to come on, okay, we’ll be BMC-Apple. We can live with that.”

The search for another major sponsor has not gone away, but that “BMC first” idea appears to have been shelved. The bike company would now be happy as a supplier, rather than a co-sponsor. “The goal is to get someone as a title sponsor and BMC as a supplier sponsor,” Ochowicz said Tuesday.

As teams have struggled to bring in major sponsors, the cycling industry has stepped in to fill the gap. BMC is one of four major bike manufacturers that is the title sponsor of a WorldTour team, along with Giant (Giant – Alpecin), Trek (Trek – Segafredo) and Cannondale (Cannondale – Drapac). But BMC is the only bike brand without a co-sponsor to carry the financial load.

“It’s difficult. Cannondale, Trek, Giant are trying to hold up the whole team with the majority of the budget,” Ochowicz said. “I don’t know what those numbers are for them, but our numbers are pretty high.

“For a bike company to hold that is not an easy thing to do forever. I’d agree with Andy, that the ultimate goal is to find a title sponsor and have BMC as a supplier sponsor like Specialized or someone else.”

This would take most of the financial burden off of BMC, and its billionaire owner Rihs, who made his money with hearing aid company Phonak. The 10-year-old team’s budget is currently one of the highest in the WorldTour.

“We just keep moving forward like any other team. It’s imperative that BMC Switzerland continues as a bicycle manufacturer because they are our title and their existence seems to depend on our existence as well,” Ochowicz said.

“They seem to be doing fine, I’m not in the bicycle business, but all indications to me are that they are doing well, the profits are there, and they are making some good movements forward.

“That’s the whole idea behind this team, it’s to help grow this business.”