Despite large time gap, BMC still racing for GC at the Tour

U.S.-based squad says it is focused on the GC to gain valuable UCI points

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TOURS, France (VN) — BMC Racing refuses to abandon its GC card despite seeing both of its podium contenders plummet out of contention in the first half of the 2013 Tour de France.

Rather than give up the GC fight and push for stage wins with world champion Philippe Gilbert, and cutting loose Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen, BMC is stubbornly sticking to its GC option.

Why? Easy. UCI points.

“There are points on the line. Not Tour de France points. UCI points,” BMC boss Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews. “So a top-10 in the Tour is a lot of points for the team in the UCI scoreboard. We’re not going to give that up. We want to go after that. A nice GC finish, even though the first place is out of reach, we still want to finish as high as possible.”

Teams always have one eye on UCI points, which are critical to assure their place in the 18-squad ProTeam league.

The Tour is the highest ranked race of the year, so a spot in the top-10 brings valued points that can help assure a spot in the major tours for next year.

UCI points or not, the team’s GC options were left in tatters following the Pyrénées and the first of two time trials.

Evans isn’t up to the same level as 2011, and ended Friday’s shootout in 12th place at 6:54. Van Garderen has struggled to find his legs and is even further back, heading into the weekend in 43rd. Team doctors suspect he might have suffered a low-grade infection due to two crashes in the opening days on Corsica.

Either way, BMC is a far cry from its dominator role it played in the past two Tours, when Evans won the 2011 edition and van Garderen won the best young rider’s jersey and finished fifth last year.

Rather than abandon the GC and the valuable UCI points that come with it, Ochowicz said the team will ride to push Evans into the top-10 while at the same time looking for an opening to attack.

“Now we’re getting into the third week and we need to show the team colors,” he said. “We will look for opportunities at the same time try to move up on the GC. We already did change gears, and now we’re going to get it going for the days that count for us.”

Ochowicz admitted the team’s performance is “not even close” now where it expected to be, but defended the team’s plan to push Evans as high up on the classification as possible.

“We are not even close. We win and lose every weekend. This is the big one, but we’re losing here,” he continued. “It’s not over yet. There are plenty of opportunities to find victories in the race, and the GC is not over. It can change at any moment, from here to Paris, so we’re sticking to our game plan. If we keep our heads down and do the right things, we can keep moving up the ladder on that side.”

Evans, speaking to journalists before the start of Friday’s stage, said he’s in it until the end.

“I am not going to give a written guarantee, because this is cycling,” he said. “I am just staying patient and not trying to force things, but the third week, could really be hopefully improving on Mont Ventoux, because the third week could be very interesting.”

Even before Friday’s wild ride, when echelons broke up the peloton and put race leader Chris Froome under pressure, Evans said there were questions about the strength of Sky.

“In terms his performance on Ax-3 Domaine and in the time trial, no one’s even near him,” Evans said. “It’s his team that could present problems to him. Some of the later stages in the third week, there are a few mountainous stages there.”

One rider who would benefit from BMC’s change in tactics will be Gilbert.

When VeloNews asked him if he’d get freedom to chase stage wins, he just laughed as he rode away: “I don’t know …. I don’t know.”

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