John Lelangue talks BMC 2010, Tour de France and Cadel Evans – part two
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

by Conal Andrews at 7:53 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 

As part one of this feature detailed, John Lelangue will be one of the key people involved in the running of the BMC team in 2010. He’s guided the American-registered, Swiss-backed squad to the point where it has now signed some of the biggest names in cycling, including 2008 world champion Alessandro Ballan, 2009 victor Cadel Evans, George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt and others.

Evans is of course the most important rider in the lineup, as he is the one who could win the Tour de France. He’s twice finished second in the race and Lelangue will hope that he can make that final step onto the top of the podium.

In this final part of VeloNation’s interview with the Belgian, he speaks about a range of topics including his team-building work with Evans, the Australian rider’s likely programme, the funding for the bigger squad, Evans’ attributes and what he feels are the team’s chances of getting a wildcard for the Tour de France.

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Q: As you approach your first season together, how will you plan things with Cadel?

A: Well, since we were working together – in fact, even before the contract was done - what I proposed to him is that this is an exchange. It is a real team-work; it is not something that I wanted to impose, but it is a daily discussion. We are speaking together about riders, preparation, about training camps, about the races, about the programme…they are the most important things. I think that when we are confident in each other, we can do really big things.

The most important point is to always have the same vision. And that vision is clear – to be competitive together, and to have clear, fixed ideas since the beginning. Of course we know that our main points for the moment are the Giro and the Tour de France, with of course the deadline of July.

So we have to plan for that moment…working backwards from there to decide what will be the all the training and all the race programme to bring us there to the Tour in the best condition.

Q: Do you think Cadel will do the Giro in 2010?

A: This is something that we are discussing, but there is a big chance that he will be doing the Giro. It is a good preparation for the Tour de France. If you look at how he did this year and how he was in the Vuelta, with the same gap in between those races, you could see that he copes well with that. I think doing the Giro is a really good thing in that you have five weeks in between to recover and build back up for the Tour de France.

That is a good period of time, it is not something which is unrealistic. Look also at other riders who have done the same. Even Lance this year…with his comeback and with the injury before the Giro, I think he proved that the Giro is a good preparation.

Q: Obviously guys like Cadel, Alessandro Ballan and others are not cheap. Does the team have additional sponsors, or does this represent a greater investment from Andy Rihs?

A: Jim Ochowicz is the person who would be able to answer that. I am the sports director and I don’t care about budget and so on. What I do with Jim – and this was the case in Phonak and even before – is that I tell him my vision, the plan, which kind of rider I want, the programme I want us to do. He tells me after if it is realistic or not.

I never handle the contracts or the negotiation as I really want to be like a football trainer or an American football coach. I am the guy on the field and I am only busy with the sporting aspect. All the administration, negotiation, budget – those are things that Jim is in charge of.

Q: Can you summarise what you see in Cadel and what kind of rider he is? Do you think he can go on to win the Tour?

A: Yes, of course….I think he can. That is the vision. If I didn’t believe in him, I wouldn’t have picked him up as a priority choice for the team. I am really confident. I have followed him since he came from mountainbike. In fact, I remember seeing him when he was riding for Volvo-Cannondale.

What he has done in the stage races - the one week stage races and the three week stage races – is special. He has one of the most successful top-ten palmares from the current peloton. You can see that he is not on the decline; on the contrary, look at his season this year…okay, he had some problems in the Vuelta with the change of wheel which cost him a lot of time, but even so, you can see that he has big potential. Even after the worlds, he was still there, attacking in Lombardy.

I think that he is a really interesting guy for those big events. He has a really good recuperation ability. Also, he’s got the attributes you need - when you see the parcours of the big stage races, they are always pretty similar – mountains, time trials; you have to be strong mentally and have a good recovery.

Cadel already proved all this in what he did in the past…not only in getting second twice in the Tour de France, but in all that he did since he became a professional on the road. It is clear that he has an advantage in this kind of race.

Q: What else is important for him?

A: He is also an important rider to unite the team. I think he will totally integrate this team…we have a set of experienced riders who are used to riding for a leader. Of course, George [Hincapie] is the best one out of this, but other guys like Ballan and Burghardt can both go for the Classics and also ride for a leader. Thomas Frei, a young Swiss rider, was doing the same when he was with Astana for two years. Santambrogio was one of the clear captains for Cunego.

All those guys know that they have to be committed 100% to only one objective…to bring our leader in the best situation and to protect him in those three weeks of racing.

I think all the team is really excited and happy about this. Of course, it is a big motivation for all those guys…experienced guys or young guys.

Anyway, for me Cadel was the big number one. I really think that he is the guy we need, in terms of integration. Another factor is that he speaks English….our team is an American one and our [official] language is English. His past record also speaks for him and I think that is really good for us. I think that we can make a big step together for the next three years.

Q: You have worked in the past for ASO. Now you have a rider who is the world champion and who has finished twice second in the Tour. How confident are you that the team will get the invite for the Tour de France?

A: I hope that we will be candidates for the Giro and the Tour. We know that we have the necessary sports level – not just in terms of Cadel, but also the guys around him – to be good candidates. As I said before, if we weren’t confident, or if we hadn’t a leader, we wouldn’t have been the candidate for either the Tour nor for some Classics.

I have too much respect for those races to go only to say, ‘yeah, we will participate in the Tour.’ I already worked on 21 Tours and I don’t need to make one more to say that I did the Tour. No, when you are going to the Tour it has to be with clear objectives and we have those. We have a guy who has already proven that he can be on the podium and can be fighting for the win. We have a guy who is in really good shape, who is not on the way down – look at the end of the season, after the Tour – and of course we have the world champion.

For the organiser, for the public, for the press and the TV viewers, the best thing is to have the best riders in the biggest races so that we can have a big, attacking event. The more and more we have contenders, the more and more the race will be interesting for everybody.

Anyway, I am confident…they will decide. I know that their priority has always been the sporting level, and I think we have a good candidature to be there. It is not only Cadel, I think that they are also looking at the team. We have guys who have already worn the yellow jersey, who have already got some really good results in the Tour. And we are putting together some young, talented riders for the future such as Frank, Frei, Santambrogio and [Brent] Bookwalter – I think that all those guys deserve their place in the Tour de France, surely.

Q: Finally, what’s the team’s plans for training camps?

A: We will have a training camp in January – that should be in California, like in recent years. But we will also have one part of the team going to Down Under, so we will have a set of riders flying on the eighth of January to prepare there, to get acclimatised and to also avoid the jet lag.

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