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Tour de France

BMC’s sponsor search not a distraction for Tour team

BMC Racing is still looking for a team sponsor for 2019, but Jim Ochowicz says that won't distract from the quest for a yellow jersey.

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NANTES, France (VN) — BMC Racing would like to know it has the money to continue for the 2019 season, but the funding isn’t there yet. Despite this, team boss Jim Ochowicz is focused first on helping Richie Porte win the 2018 Tour de France.

The Tour begins Saturday in Vendée and ends three weeks later in Paris, where Australian Richie Porte is at least aiming for a third-place finish.

“It’s not a distraction for the team, for the riders, we had enough international communication about all of this,” Ochowicz said. “The riders are relaxed and focused on this Tour, as is all the staff including myself. I’m here now, this is what we are doing.”

Ochowicz is in a race against time to secure a sponsor or sponsors, enough to give the team a budget of around $29 million. Waiting much longer he risks losing his star riders.

Already, reports and rumors are swirling about  Porte is said to be signed with Trek-Segafredo for 2019. Tejay van Garderen for EF Education First-Drapac. Rohan Dennis to Bahrain-Merida. And classics star Greg Van Avermaet could join Dimension Data, following bike manufacturer BMC.

“Rumors don’t help anyone, facts do help. Rumors are just that, they don’t do us or anyone else any good because there are too many of them, and quite frankly most are not true,” Ochowicz said. “In term of knowledge of things that are reported, it’s just not factual.”

BMC Racing began as a team after Team Phonak folded in 2006. Over the years, Ochowicz helped Cadel Evans win the Tour de France in 2011 and saw Van Avermaet to monument wins in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

The American manager spoke at the team bus after his riders met the press during a pre-Tour press conference. The eight men remained in the building sitting to the side after the conference ended.

“I have not decided my future yet,” Van Avermaet said. “I am going to decide soon. I am waiting for BMC still, and I have a few offers. I think close to the Tour I will make my decision on where I will go and I have a few offers. I think it’s pretty important to not wait too long on this.”

“I can’t speak for my teammates, but right now, I have not signed anything yet for next year,” van Garderen said. “Hopefully we’ll get some news sooner than later. I am not going to give you a date. August 1 is the transfer window, there’s that.”

Even if the riders or teams reached an agreement, they could not say because the official date for signing deals is not until August 1. After that, any deal made earlier would be made official as if it just happened.

It is much more complicated than in decades past. As with specialized training and specific racing schedules, transfers and contracts require greater attention and have become a bigger business.

“You can’t compare what was going on with 7-Eleven when we lost them as a sponsor, and Motorola, that was a different world then,” Ochowicz said.

“Things didn’t move as fast, it was also moving, people weren’t worried so much about contracts. We didn’t talk about them until August or later, after the Coors Classic. The timelines have changed, the management of athletes has changed a lot. I can’t remember more than one or two riders who had a manager in those days. The rest were freelancing or doing it on their own.

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“You can’t say we can’t find a sponsor for next year, we are not there yet. We just haven’t done it up to this point, today’s date. People can find a sponsor at any time in the year. Our TAG Heuer sponsor didn’t materialize until September two years ago. Companies work in calendar cycles, but not cycling, which may end in June or July. Decisions about financial investments are done at different times in the year.”

Already since last year, the team has been looking for a new sponsor when former BMC founder Andy Rihs said that he would pull the business out. That search intensified with his death this April.

The marketplace is getting more crowded as well. Team Astana manager Marc Biver is setting up a team. His brother Jean-Claude is the CEO of TAG Heuer, but Ochowicz said that TAG is committed to his team for 2019 and that he has the WorldTour license.

Another twist is that long-time BMC press chief Georges Lüchinger resigned before the Tour, said to be heading to Biver’s side. Biver said that he is not trying to take TAG as a sponsor, however.

Ochowicz must keep his head down and focus on the Tour, which could bring more riches for the 2019 season.

“The last opportunity we really had was Cadel. Tejay took over, got fifth, but couldn’t squeeze up to the podium level. This is the year for Richie, he just won Tour de Suisse. You can’t deny he’s a contender. It changes the mood in the team, the rides direction and gives everyone focus,” Ochowicz said.

“Of course, it’s global publicity. This is why we are at the Tour de France, it’s the biggest sporting event, and one of the biggest in the world. It’s a global stage and that’s’ whey people want to sponsor.”

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