John Lelangue talks BMC 2010, Tour de France and Cadel Evans – part one
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

John Lelangue talks BMC 2010, Tour de France and Cadel Evans – part one

by Conal Andrews at 8:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France
 

As is the case with other sports, the transfer season is one rife with rumours and speculation. Riders such as Alberto Contador and Bradley Wiggins have been talked about almost daily, with a near-obsession building up as to where they will be racing in 2010. Internet forums, magazine columns and website reports have dwelled on this subject since before the Tour de France, with the destination of plenty of professionals being debated, dissected and detailed.

One which was very much off the radar was the signing of Cadel Evans to the BMC Racing Team. In truth, nobody saw that coming; Evans had just won the world road race championship and was clearly in demand, but there wasn’t an inkling that he might have jumped ship a year before his then-contract was due to end.

However, using the buy-out clause built into his agreement with the Silence Lotto team, he was able to get free and head to pastures new. He’ll be working there with John Lelangue, a friendly French-speaking Belgian who previously headed up the Phonak team, and was directeur sportif during Floyd Landis’ ill-fated 2006 Tour campaign.

Prior to his current career, Lelangue worked for Tour organisers ASO. He and Evans will hope that, plus the Australian’s excellent history in the race, will guarantee the Professional Continental squad gets a wildcard to cycling’s biggest event.

In a recent telephone interview, Lelangue spoke to VeloNation on a number of subjects. Part one deals with the team’s expansion in 2010, how the deal with Evans came about and how the BMC riders and management will help support him next July.

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Q: First off, the team is really stepping up a level in 2010 – can you tell us a little about that evolution?

A: Well, heading towards next season we were in year three of the project. After two years of discovery and growing with the team, we knew that the objective position in the next year was to go to the big races, the Classics. Therefore we made some good recruitment with Hincapie, Ballan, Burghardt and Kroon.

The objective was also to complete this with a vision on the Tours. Therefore we were working for two years with a group of young riders, who have already proven that they can get some good results. This group included Thomas Frei and Mathias Frank. Those guys were already competing in different races like Romandie, the Tour de Suisse and the Dauphiné with good results. We also hired some good guys for the mountains like Morabito - the Swiss guy from Astana - and Mauro Santambrogio from Lampre.

Q: What about Cadel Evans – that was an unexpected signing….

A: Well, of course, we needed to find a leader. For me, a leader for the Tour is somebody who can make a big result. You are not going to go the Tour without a leader – you need to have someone who can be there for the GC, or alternatively you have to have a big sprinter.

For the moment, the big sprinters are all under contract, so that was out. Anyway, for me, the philosophy in going to the Grand Tours is more about going for the GC. Not going for stages, not doing for a jersey like the mountains jersey or the points jersey. For me, when you are going to a stage race, it is always that you have someone for the GC.

When you look at all his results in Grand Tours and also in stage races of one week, Cadel has achieved some really impressive performances since he turned pro on the road. Not only finishing twice times second in the Tour de France, but also what he did in the Vuelta this year, where he would normally have won had he not had this technical problem. And also what he did in the Giro when he was discovered [in the first year of his pro road career], or what he did in races like the Dauphiné and so on.

For me, he is one of the big contenders and someone who is arriving at an age when he has the experience and the maturity to do it. Then it was a matter of speaking, and explaining the vision [to him]. He was confident in the team that we were putting together, with experienced guys in the mountains, and also big team-mates who are also important in the Grand Tours. By that I mean guys like Burghardt, Hincapie and Kroon, who have the experience.

You could see the importance of the latter guys in the Tour and Giro this year, it is always the same. You have a lot of racing in the beginning of those Grand Tours; maybe it is not there that you will win the Tour, but it is there that you can lose it and you need a big team around you.

Q: So Cadel was happy with the lineup?

A: Yes, he was confident in this. I think we have the same vision, he has the goal to win the Tour. I think he has the physical attributes and all the quality to do it. We have the vision to bring him there with a team surrounding him, dedicated to go to the Grand Tours with that objective.

For the Classics, we will have another team with guys like Hincapie, Ballan and Burghardt. I think it is a good mix between experienced guys and young guys.

We have a clear vision as to where we want to go with Cadel, and he also had his own vision where he wants to go. So when those two visions are coming together, that’s a good deal of the work already done.

Q: Did you contact him before the world championships?

A: Yes, of course. The jersey was not the decision-maker in this. The jersey is nice because, of course, it is really important for a team and also for him. Also we will be going to the Tour Down Under with him as world champion - I am very proud that we can begin the season there like that.

It’s also good to go to the big races with the world champion – I’m well aware of the history of them and so that is part of the respect that you can bring to those big races.

The Tour, too – that will be special. It is not often you have the rainbow jersey going to the race, with the objective of getting onto the podium of the Tour de France. In recent years it was mostly won by sprinters or Classic riders. You have got to go back to Olano or Greg LeMond, when he won the Tour [1990]. You have to go back to one time when Hinault won in the 1980s. Most of the time, you are always dealing with Classic contenders or sprinters.

All that said, this was not the decision maker. The contact was before and he was the priority on my list. I had nobody else. I think if it was not him this year, then we would have continued to work with Frank, Frei, Morabito and so on, while looking to signing him in 2011. I had hoped that we could work together one day - it has happened now – so that is even better than 2011.

We have a clear vision as regards where we want to go in the next three years. We will put all the resources together - technical, training, preparation, reconnaissance and the team so that we can do everything to go to the start of those races with the maximum chances to realise this dream.

Q: Originally the team intended targeting the Tour in 2011, but now you will be chasing a place in the race one year earlier than that…

A: Yes. I have too much respect for the Tour and the big historical Classic races like Roubaix, Flanders, Milan San Remo, Liège and so on…I think you can’t go to those races without somebody who can be there and be competitive.

If Cadel was not coming to the team, we wouldn’t have been candidates for the Tour de France in 2010, as we wouldn’t have the guy there to make the GC. So it all changed due to the fact that we were able to have this leader. That was the crucial point.

Our plan was to the Tour in 2011, whatever happened…we knew that Cadel was going to end his contact at the end of 2010 so we had a greater chance to sign him for 2011 and go there. But due to the fact that we could solve this thing [a year earlier], and because we had the same vision in that he wanted to come and that we wanted to have him, we can do it now.

Q: The impression that the media got during the Tour was that Cadel felt that the Silence Lotto team was perhaps not fully behind him. He was sick and off form in the race, but he also seemed to be unhappy with the team.

Do you think the chance of having a team which is fully committed to him, will let him plan his campaign and give him complete support was one of the things that attracted him to BMC and enticed him to move early?

A: Well, I am only speaking about sport matters with him – training camp, reconnaissance and all this. For me, the only thing we have to speak about are things that makes him feel confident [in his chances].

When we were speaking, when he saw the team that we had for the race, when he knew my philosophy that we wanted to prepare for the Tour and get there in July, but also to go to the Giro in the best condition…they were all good points.

When we are together, I think that is the best subject to speak about – what we can do together to make things happen. I never spoke with him about what was happening before. That is not what I wanted to ask. What is most important for me is what we can do together during the next three years, to do our best and to come together as regards this vision. That is the most crucial. All the rest is not important to me.

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( Read part two of this interview)

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