Q&A: BMC’s Ochowicz reflects on Evans and looks to future

As BMC moves on from Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd, team leadership aims for Tour de France podium

Photo: Tim De Waele

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The end of the season always brings with it the news of transfers and retirements, of speculations for next season and goals. American team BMC Racing will see a changing of the guard of sorts, as Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd will both retire.

Evans and Hushovd’s resumes are as deep as anyone’s in the peloton. Each won a world championship in the road race. Evans won a Tour de France, and Hushovd two green jerseys and 10 Tour stages. VeloNews caught up with BMC Racing president Jim Ochowicz to discuss the past season, Evans, and next year.

VeloNews: You’re losing Cadel Evans. That’s tough.
Jim Ochowicz: Cadel is the biggest athlete we have on our roster since 2010. Losing Cadel is something we have to deal with. I don’t think we’ve had the responsibility internally here to try and find a replacement for him because we’re satisfied with the fact that Tejay is on the team. And he’s demonstrated his ability to ride grand tours. Cadel’s leaving is going to create a gap. It creates a fact that we’ve been able to utilize Cadel in another capacity, riding grand tours that Tejay isn’t in. Because not one rider in 95 percent of cases is capable of doing three grand tours. … It has been a great experience for all of us. So yeah, it’s a gap. We’re not expecting anybody to fill his shoes, because it’s pretty tough to find somebody who can fill those shoes.

VN: Is there a feeling Cadel helped make the team what it is?
JO: It was something that happens in life, where two groups find each other at the right moment. … We had a need. We needed a star player to get into the Tour de France and Cadel needed a team that believed he could win the Tour. We accomplished both together. And it’s hard to replicate.

VN: You’re happy with what you’ve got in terms of a GC rider in van Garderen?
JO: He keeps progressing, and we’re very satisfied with Tejay. He’s missed a couple of opportunities this year, one due to illness, another due to a mishap, a crash, in Paris-Nice and Romandie. Other than that, he’s performed well. I think that he’s got more expectations and more goals to reach. And certainly has the potential to stand on the podium in a grand tour in 2015.

VN: The plan for him is the Tour, I presume?
JO: Yes. The Tour is his top priority, and our top priority. We don’t have the course yet, we’ll see that in a couple of weeks. We also have the world championships in Richmond. Which, for us as a U.S. team, is a pretty important event. We’ll be really focused on that. And then how do we get there, you know? With two options. One is Colorado and Canada and training camp. The other is go to the Vuelta and get there. … We’re going to go back there and try to defend the [world] team time trial [championship] on U.S. soil … it’s an extreme challenge because the competition is very motivated in taking that title. Either taking it back, with Omega Pharma, or finally getting there, with GreenEdge. We all seem to be extremely focused on this world team time trial championships, which is I think fun and great for the sport.

VN: How about Taylor Phinney’s recovery from injury?
JO: We can’t put any pressure on setting dates. He’s progressing. He’s in rehab. It’s a day-to-day progression. … It’s still a ways away. If you talk about the ideal scenario, love to see him going back to defend his title in Dubai. Love to see him back on the pavé in Belgium and France. Love to see him take a crack at his first Tour de France. And certainly would love to see him in the team time trial in Richmond. So that’s the wish list, and now we’ve got to work toward that.

VN: Are you happy with the past season?
JO: We met some goals, and we didn’t meet others. We won a spring classic, which was one of the objectives, in Amstel Gold. We went into the grand tours with not really podium expectations other than the Tour de France, so we got some good performance at the Giro and Vuelta. … I think we missed some chances when Tejay crashed out of some earlier races or was sick … We won Colorado, which was a great win for us as a U.S. team on U.S. soil, a great win for Tejay. I would have given us a B plus, maybe an A minus. I expected more this year, but I’m feeling pretty satisfied at the moment, that we just won the worlds.

VN: And next season — what does BMC need to do to accomplish a strong season, in your book?
JO: We’ve got to make the podium in a grand tour. We’ve got to win a spring classic. We need to defend the team time trial title.

VN: The team will be younger next season. Are you worried it will be a bit green?
JO: I think it’s going to be a new challenge and a lot of fun. There’s a lot of energy around the team right now with the new signings and the young guys that are on the current roster, along with the seasoned vets who prove their worth day after day after day, and they don’t get in the newspaper, they don’t get written about. It’s a pretty energetic group of people. We’ve got our challenges ahead of us … Yes, we lost Thor, we lost Cadel, but that’s generational changes that go on in every sport. We’re not crying about it. We’re happy for them. They’ve come to an end with successful careers. And now we set new goals and new objectives with the new roster.

An American in France

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