What's Cool In Road Cycling

Two Days With The BMC Team: The Final Day!

Day One was all about the bikes and the interviews with the star riders. Day Two was the official BMC team presentation. Afterwards we had a chance to take some photos of the boys out on a training ride going up the hills behind the village of Pego. I learnt a big lesson today: always make sure you have diesel in your car before you go chasing after bike riders! it was very close to a disaster, but it seems my car can run on fumes.

I had to be at the hotel for eight AM for breakfast. Breakfast was a selection of mini-croissants; with or without chocolate and empanadas with tuna and tomato, coffee and a fine selection of tea’s to wash it all down, very nice.

Breakfast & Expo

The team’s sponsors were having an expo of their wares. The BMC bikes are always nice to look at as are the Easton wheels. Thule bags and a Swiss company called Gunz who supply lots of different food stuffs were also there. The most interesting was lululemon athletica from Vancouver. Their man Ben Jackson is a fan of PEZ and recently sold our Richard Pestes a pair of purple (he says gray) shorts. The yoga matt he gave me has been put to use, but I’m not sure about his comment: “a bloke like you might sweat a bit!” The teams food and drink supplement supplier, zipvit, were also kind enough to give me some bars and powders to try, which means I have to ride my bike. BMC didn’t seem keen on giving me a Impec with Shimano Di2, but no surprise there. One very interesting item there was a carbon drive system from Gates. It works on a single freewheel or hub gear with a different sprocket and chain wheel and a chain that is similar to the fan belt in a car. It’s quiet, light and strong with the advantage of not needing any lube. The company are supplying the BMC riders with “lifestyle bikes” for their personal use and to the team trucks for use at race venues.

The Gates carbon drive system

Nine o’clock and it was time for the team presentation, after a quick explanation as to how the day would work for the journalists, photographers and TV crews. When you have as many people as this to herd about, it’s not easy.

Andy Rihs jokes with “Och”

The riders and management were lined up for the introductions. This took quite a long time, if you think of the wins accumulated by these guys. It’s a long list and not just the riders, the management has great palmarйs too.

And Cadel

Everyone in the BMC team talks of “the family,” and when you see them messing about, that feeling does come across. These are all serious people with a job to do and that comes over in bucketfuls. The owner of the team; Andy Rihs enjoys every minute of his job. Yes he want success, but he jokes with everyone and seems to be like one of the boys. It’s his party and he wants all the guests to be happy.

A relaxed Cadel

Sean Weide took the stage for some sound bites from the top riders. These were all as you would expect…going to win races, etc. More of which you can read in their respective interviews coming soon on PEZ. Cadel was relaxed and confident, while Philippe was pleased to be in the BMC team and looking forward to the season.

A happy Philippe

Over the two days, more than once I heard comments on the fitness of Steve Cummings: apparently in the team time trial training earlier that week no one could hold his wheel. Cadel Evans was amongst those who were impressed by the form of the ex-Sky rider, expect good things from the tall man this year.

A very fit Steve Cummings

Time for the big screen projectors to be moved away so the photographers can get the team shots. After the riders could go and get ready for the ride, and the press could quiz the three men running the show; Andy Rihs, Jim Ochowicz and John Lelangue.

The 2012 BMC Team line-up

Team presentation video by Laura Meseguer of Pedalier Pro magazine.

Rihs, Ochowicz & Lelangue; The Three Wise Men!

Jim Ochowicz was pleased with the ongoing sponsorship from BMC for the team: “It puts us in a unique situation, and that can be seen by our roster for the 2012 season. We have a big group of young talent and we are looking to 3, 5, 6 and 8 years from now.” He added: “We have long term vision, long term sponsorship and we have a team of athletes and management who will work in that set up. So we are happy with our situation.” He stressed the team’s objective to be competitive in every race they enter: “We might not win them all, we accept that, but when you hear Alessandro Ballan say that he will help Thor Hushovd win Paris-Roubaix. That’s not something we rehearsed, he said that seriously. That’s the sort of people we want in this organisation.” Is this his dream team? “Well it looks nice, yeah! I don’t know if I would call it my dream team, but it’s a fabulous group of individuals we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with.”

Sports Director, John Lelangue, went on to explain how happy he was with the team at this training camp and how he was building the Classics group and the Tour group and their preparation. “To arrive in Paris with the yellow jersey is the main objective.” The Classics? “The Classics are goal No. 2, from Milan-San Remo to Liege; you can see the team we have here for those races.” What about Cadel’s preparation for the Tour? “It seemed to work last year, so it’s much the same this year. You might say it’s pretty light at 30 days, but look at the Tour and the preparation there is a lot of work to do. There is no reason to change and we know exactly what we need to do to bring Cadel to the right condition.” Who will be in the team? “I have my long list of fourteen, at the moment it’s not easy to name the final nine, or Cadel and the other eight.”

What about a BMC woman’s team? Andy Rihs answered this one. “As well as the road team, we also have a mountain bike team which is very important to us, plus the tri-athletes we support. Also we are building a 250 metre velodrome and we have a football team, so you can see we do support our sport.” Is this the most expensive team ever? “Ha! Well I don’t know what the other teams spend, but if you want riders of this calibre you have to come with enough funds. We have 85 people working in this company (the BMC team), that’s what you need to support these riders.”

Can Evans compete against Contador in the 2012 Tour? Ochowicz; “He did in 2011, I think in a head to head situation Cadel can be a contender with anyone!

So that was all the serious stuff over, it was now time for a bike ride and a bit of a car race for me to first find the convoy and then to stay with them without using too much fuel. The riders were wandering over to the team bus for last minute adjustments to the bikes, pick up food for the ride, and decide on the correct clothing and of course all the photos.

Thor Hushovd pose for Norwegian TV

First it was Thor Hushovd being interviewed for a Norwegian TV station, amongst the trucks and bus there was a bit of a scrabble with photographers, film crews and journalists recording short interviews with the main riders on the team, who were happy to oblige.

Marco Pinotti; It’s not cold

The clever riders hid in the team bus until things calmed down a little. Marco Pinotti was first to get ready, although I don’t think it was that cold that he needed all those clothes, but pro’s know what they are doing.

Another season (or two) for George?

George Hincapie is looking forward to his 17th Tour and maybe another after that?

Hang over, Laura?

I missed the dinner and wine tasting again this year, but I got the rundown on proceedings from Laura, Sean Weide tells me that she eat my dinner in my absence, possibly she drank my wine too? Laura has been a “Daily Distraction” in the past, as has Patricia and her boyfriend is the Italian Classics specialist Manuel Quinziato.

Manuel Quinziato

I wondered how any sort of relationship was possible? He did confirm my thoughts, but he said he would manage to get to Madrid a few times during gaps in his racing program, lucky guy I think you will agree?

Alessandro Ballan

Alessandro Ballan is a quiet guy, except when he is on the bike. Last season was fairly quiet if you think 2nd in the Strade Bianche, 4th in Milan-San Remo and 6th in Paris-Roubaix quiet.

How many races will I win this year?

Many of the journalists and photographers were here to see Philippe Gilbert and his bike seemed to have been fitted with a magnet as all were drawn to it, everyone there must have at least one photo of that Belgian coloured BMC in the memory of their phone or camera.

That bike should cross a few finish lines 1st

Now that I have listened to Philippe Gilbert and had the lowdown from Adam Blythe who was a team mate of his at Omega Pharma-Lotto for two years and now at BMC, I can confirm he is a nice guy, except maybe near the end of a race, of course!

A Worlds jersey would be nice

Cadel Evans has the World at his feet, OK bit of shoe/feet joke there, but you know what I mean. It would be nice to see him win a Giro d’Italia or a Vuelta a Espaсa one day, but there may be a battle for the Worlds with team mate Philippe Gilbert at the end of this year.

Worlds, Tour, what next?

When asked about his yellow SRM he answered “It’s nice to have something from last years Tour.”

Still got a yellow SRM

Time for the three top winners for BMC to have their photo together, I put this one on the PEZ Twitter feed with the caption “The Three Musketeers” and I think it has been re-tweeted so many times now, even by TV commentator Paul Sherwen.

The Three Musketeers

So off we go tearing after the BMC peloton with a very bright little light on the dashboard of my car saying I have less fuel than I need for any distance and I don’t know where we are going. Luckily DS Fabio Baldato has taken a shortcut to get to the climb of the Vall d’Ebo up the road to La Cova del Rull, before the riders. He explains that we should go up the hill to near the top to photograph them climbing and then catch them again on the descent, I think it’s a good idea for me not to go too far up due to the lack of fuel.

There they are; down in the valley

From my vantage point I could see them coming up the valley and they had split into smaller groups, either by plan or it could have been under the pressure of Jim Ochowicz on a “Leisure Bike” he is stuck to the wheel of Marco Pinotti, impressive.

Pinotti 1st up, but what is “Och” riding?

Not far behind was George Hincapie, all those years have given him a lot of style on a bike.

The “Old Man” still looks good

Leading the next little group was two of the teams ex-World champions; Alessandro Ballan and Cadel Evans, shorts for Ballan seemed a little brave as the air was starting to cool, I’m sure he had leg warmers in the car for the descent.

2 World champs; Ballan & Evans

The third group was led by Adam Blythe and Taylor Phinney, they were not taking the ride too seriously and having a joke, hanging on the back of their group was the Belgian champion, we won’t be seeing that in a few weeks.

Adam Blythe & Taylor Phinney share a joke

As I wait for them to come back down I get a surprise as a Saxo Bank rider comes charging up the hill…who is that? Is that a fan with all the kit and the right bike? No, it’s the real thing, Nick Nuyens, yip the Tour of Flanders, Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne winner.

A bonus; Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank)

The BMC riders started to come back down to head off either back to the hotel or to get a few more miles in the legs depending on their program. Philippe Gilbert flew past me, but I did manage to catch a photo of his disappearing rear wheel, that’s a sight many riders saw last season and many more will this year.

A sight many will see this season

I managed to get to a petrol station…just, and then head for home after a couple of great days, now I have all these interviews to type up, could be worse, remember Johan Bruyneel’s 7,000 word interview? I still had one surprise left, on the way home I took the road over the Coll de Rates, which is a favourite local climb and who do I see doing timed rides, first Cadel Evans and then I catch and follow Taylor Phinney to the top, no time for a photo, but still a very nice way to finish the day.

Thanks to all the BMC team, riders and management for two brilliant days, Sean Weide for all his help and not forgetting Laura Meseguer for her company. I’ll come for dinner and wine next year…if I’m invited back?

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