No pressure: Ochowicz says BMC Racing Team is taking long term view
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

No pressure: Ochowicz says BMC Racing Team is taking long term view

by Shane Stokes at 9:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race
 
Gilbert, Evans and Van Avermaet comment prior to Amstel Gold Race

BMC Racing TeamDespite a budget which is considerably bigger than that of most of the rest of the peloton plus a lineup which includes some of the top riders in the sport, the BMC Racing Team has clocked up just two wins thus far this season; Cadel Evans’ time trial victory and overall success in the Criterium International.

However the team president Jim Ochowicz has played down any notion that the team is losing patience. The American has said that the success of the team will be gauged by what happens in the medium to long term, not by what has been achieved thus far.

“We don’t measure our performance on three months of racing,” he told reporters at the team’s press conference held prior to the Amstel Gold Race. “This is a team that is really focused on the next three years. It is our first opportunity this spring to race together, and we are really looking at the big mission. It is really a three year project, looking forward.”

When last year’s WorldTour champion Philippe Gilbert, 2010 world champion Thor Hushovd and young American GC rider Tejay Van Garderen were signed to the squad, many people suggested it could dominate the sport.

It already had athletes such as Evans, who won the Tour de France in 2011 and the world championships in 2009, the 2008 world champion Alessandro Ballan, talented young American rider Taylor Phinney and other strong riders such as Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet, and is therefore a team which is packed with talent.

It’s consequently surprising that it has just two wins thus far, particularly as the Belgian team Omega Pharma Quick Step has clocked up 26 road race victories, including Tom Boonen’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix double.

However Ochowicz states that he isn’t concerned. “Our primary goal this year is still ahead of us, the Tour de France defence. I am satisfied with the performance of the team thus far this year,”he said. “We still have a lot of goals to focus in 2012, but the real focus and real mission of this team is long term.

“We expect to find results over that time period that will be acceptable not only to us but to the athletes as well.”

The team will compete in the Amstel Gold Race tomorrow and, according to directeur sportif John Lelangue, the riders have the potential to excel.

“We have got three leaders, three that we can play in a difficult race,” he said. “We ended the Northern Classics in a good way with Flanders and Roubaix, and now we are beginning three races in the Ardennes, three races which are part of the WorldTour and which are an objective for us.”

Gilbert, Evans and Van Avermaet are those with the leadership role tomorrow. They will be supported by Swiss riders Martin Kohler and Michael Schär, the Belgian Klaas Lodewyck and the Italian Mauro Santambrogio.

“It is a pretty good Classic team which will be there to help the three leaders,” he said. “We have riders who can protect the leaders there in the preparation of some of the climbs, and also people who have the experience to be in the final. That is always our objective, like we set out in Denia [at the team training camp – ed.] and like we succeeded in Flanders and Roubaix. We want to have a key role in the final of the race and to be present, of course. We are looking for a good result for Amstel.”

Gilbert hopes big form is coming, Evans pledges support:

The riders of course will ultimately determine what is achieved. Gilbert would normally be a big favourite, given that one year ago he dominated en route to what were four consecutive victories [Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège – ed.], but this year he has been in nothing like the same form.

He’s struggled with poor condition, with a tooth infection being one of the factors which has been blamed for his lack of success. Speaking at the press conference, he indicated that things were moving in the right direction, but is clearly less confident that last year.

“I will see how my condition is, see if I am better,” he said.

“On Wednesday I was finally there [in Brabantse Pijl – ed.], but it’s a little race…there wasn’t that many good riders at the start. I was there, playing with some attacks in the final, so it was much better for me. Maybe it is the first step towards big form.”

One plus for him is that Evans has pledged to work for the Belgian, sacrificing any personal ambitions in doing so.

“I hadn’t had as good a run as I wanted to from Criterium [International] onwards, but the aim this year is to be here for the team,” said the Australian. “I hope I can be a good helper. We’ll see how far I can go [in front – ed.], but hopefully all the way to the end.

Gilbert said that this dedication to his own cause boosts his focus. “Of course it will be helpful and be a big motivation, because when we have worked in the past together it has been really good,” he said. “I think it will be a big motivation for me. “

The team’s other card is Van Avermaet, who has performed solidly thus far this year. His results include second on a stage of the Volta ao Algarve, fourth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen plus fifth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and Brabantse Pijl.

He doesn’t have anything like the same career palmares as Gilbert or Evans, but his good condition means that he should be on for a strong performance.

“I feel pretty good. I was already going well at the beginning of the season, and I am happy with my Classic races so far,” he said. “I crashed in San Remo but I was always there, I was always in the final, always there in the top ten. I hope in the next races we can have a nice result also.”

Tomorrow’s race is one that he feels suits his characteristics very well. “I always have the feeling when I am riding the Amstel that it is a race that is especially fitting for me,” the 2011 Paris-Tours winner said. “I am really delighted to race here, and to do the Ardennes Classics.”

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