The holiday is over and it is time for the professional riders to start their serious training for the 2017 season. After the team building activities at the first team meetings in November, the month of December is traditionally the time for the first real training camps where the first drafts of the season schedules are made and just a few weeks later, the cycling season is in full swing at the Tour Down Under. During the next few weeks, CyclingQuotes prepares you for the coming season in a series of analyses where we take a detailed look at each of the 18 WorldTour teams and what to expect during the next 12 months.
Below we take a look at BMC Racing Team.
Tom Bohli, Brent Bookwalter, Damiano Caruso, Alessandro De Marchi, Rohan Dennis, Silvan Dillier, Jean-Pierre Drucker, Floris Gerts, Ben Hermans, Stefan Küng, Amael Moinard, Daniel Oss, Richie Porte, Manuel Quinziato, Joey Rosskopf, Samuel Sanchez, Michael Schär, Manuel Senni, Dylan Teuns, Greg Van Avermaet, Tejay van Garderen, Loic Vliegen, Danilo Wyss
Martin Elmiger (IAM), Kilian Frankiny (BMC Development Team), Nicolas Roche (Sky), Miles Scotson (Team Illuminate), Francisco Ventoso (Movistar)
Riders leaving the team
Darwin Atapuma (TJ Sport), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-hansgrohe), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), Peter Velits (retires), Rick Zabel (Katusha-Alpecin)
Analysis of the transfer season
With an Olympic gold medal and several top results for Greg Van Avermaet and the final confirmation that Richie Porte is a potential grand tour winner, the 2016 season was pretty successful for BMC Racing Team. As Van Avermaet is one of the most versatile rider and a top contender in almost every classic and Porte is one of the best grand tour and one-week stage racers, the management found no major reason to make many changes to the team and the transfer campaign has mostly been focused on renewing contracts with some of their key riders and most loyal domestiques. The team have only signed five new riders and they have all mainly been hired for their ability to support the leaders. Unfortunately, the team have also lost some of their most prolific riders and so the 2017 roster is probably a bit weaker than it was for the previous year.
Porte’s great performance at the Tour showed that the Australian deserves more support in the mountains. That’s why the team has signed Nicolas Roche who has huge experience in supporting grand tour stars like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. The Irishman didn’t have his best 2016 season, mainly because he was hit by illness before the Vuelta, but he has always been very reliable. He will definitely strengthen the team for the mountains in the Tour and he will also hope to get his own chances in the Vuelta where he has always been on great form.
The other four signings can be split in two categories: two veteran riders who can support Van Avermaet on the cobbles and be of value to the grand tour leaders in the flat stages, and two young neo-professionals. Martin Elmiger and Francisco Ventoso belong to the first category and especially Elmiger will be valuable for Van Avermaet. In 2015, the Swiss was in the top in both Flanders and Roubaix and so he has proved that he can be there in the finale of the longest races. A crash destroyed his classics campaign in 2016 and so it is still uncertain whether the 38-year-old can get back to the same level but at least he has a huge experience in those races. The addition of Ventoso is a bit more of a surprise. The Spaniard was once known as a sprinter but in recent years he has mainly shepherded Valverde and Quintana through flat terrain. He will have a similar role in his new team and will also be able to accompany Van Avermaet in the early part of the cobbled races.
Kilian Frankiny and Miles Scotson are the two neo-pros in the team. The Swiss is a very talented climber who won one of the hardest U23 races, Giro della Valle d’Aosta, in 2016 and showed himself against WorldTour climbers with his seventh place at the Tour de l’Ain. The signing is a confirmation of the team’s Swiss roots and a long-term investment for the grand tours and stage races. Scotson is a time trial specialist who mainly rode on the track in 2016 and ended the year on a high with a bronze medal in the Worlds time trial.
Unfortunately, the team have also waved goodbye to two of their most prolific riders. Even though he won the Worlds for the team, Philippe Gilbert never reached his best level in BMC colours and in 2016 it became apparent that he is past his best. At the same time, Greg Van Avermaet has clearly overshadowed his former leader and with Gilbert’s desire to focus on the cobbled races, it was evident that there wasn’t room for both of them in the same team. Of course the team chose to keep Van Avermaet in their ranks and the loss of Gilbert is unlikely to be a major setback. Of course they will be less prominent in the Ardennes but it seems that Gilbert can only realistically aim for the Amstel Gold Race nowadays. At the same time, it opens the door for Van Avermaet to also focus on the hillier classics and he has made it clear that it is one of his future objectives.
The biggest loss is likely to be Darwin Atapuma. It took some time for the Colombian to be competitive in the grand tours but in 2016 he was one of the standout performers. He deserved to win a stage in the Giro where he was a perennial attacker and he wore the red jersey for several days during the Vuelta. At the same time, he had the potential to be a very valuable climbing domestique for Porte. However, it was always going to be difficult to keep Atapuma who must have attracted plenty of interest and his opportunities at BMC were always going to be limited.
The team have also lost Taylor Phinney but it is uncertain whether that’s a real setback. The American is still not at his best after his broken leg from 2014 and it is clear that he still has a long way to go before he can return to his foormer level. It’s very unlikely that he would have been a major classics contender in the near future and so he will probably mainly be missed as a key engine in the formidable TTT squad. For Van Avermaet, it is probably more of a concern that he has lost Marcus Burghardt who has been a key rider in the classics. He will hope that Elmiger can take over the job from the reliable German.
Finally, the team have lost Rick Zabel and Peter Velits but their absence is unlikely to make much of a difference. It seems evident that Zabel will never follow in the footsteps of his father and he would probably mostly have worked as a domestique. Health issues meant that Velits never reached his 2010 level again and in the last few years he could only play a minor role in the team.
What to expect in the classics?
In the last few years, the team have had an equal focus on the cobbled classics with Greg Van Avermaet and the Ardennes classics with Philippe Gilbert. As the latter has now left the team, the balance will be tipped and next year the Northern classics will take centre stage. Van Avermaet has had a very steady progress but he has slowly developed into one of the very best riders for the Flemish races and he deserves to be fully supported throughout the entire spring. The Belgian is no longer and outsider an goes into almost every race as a major contender, meaning that BMC will be expect to do a lot of work throughout the months of March and April.
At the same time, Van Avermaet is one of the most versatile riders and he is one of the select few who can be in contention in almost every major one-day race of the spring. That also makes it hard for him to decide his schedule as it is impossible to target everything. Luckily, he is also one of the most consistent riders and always seems to be riding at a high level, never far from his best. This means that he can be a contender all the way from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to Liege-Bastogne-Liege but for the moment, his emphasis will be on the cobbled races.
Van Avermaet will kick off his classics campaign by trying to go for a repeat win in Omloop and then he will try to take the Strade Bianche win that has eluded him so far. Milan-Sanremo is the spring classic that will be most difficult for the Belgian to win. He may have finished fifth in 2016 but in recent years the race has been more suited to the sprinters. As soon as we hit the cobbles, however, Van Avermaet can win any race and he may even do the full schedule with Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix.
Van Avermaet will have his best chances in E3 and the Tour of Flanders as the harder races suit him the best. The biggest obstacle will of course be Peter Sagan and the pair will resume their internal rivalry throughout the holy period in Flanders. However, Van Avermaet has proved that he can beat the world champion, even if the arrive together for a sprint. The Belgian is less suited to Paris-Roubaix where he can make less use of his explosiveness but as he has been on the podium in the past, there is no reason that he can’t win it. With Van Avermaet reaching the prime of his career, the spring will be a failure if he doesn’t win one of the WorldTour races on the cobbles, preferably one of the monuments.
Van Avermaet is not only one of the strongest riders, he can also rely on one of the best team. Daniel Oss is highly underestimated and if he can benefit from the presence of his leader, the Italian is strong enough to win a classic in his own right. Martin Elmiger has been in the top 10 in both cobbled monuments and Jempy Drucker is constantly improving on the cobbles. If one adds the likes of Manuel Quinziato and Francisco Ventoso, Van Avermaet can count on exceptional experience.
However, it will not be all about Van Avermaet. Silvan Dillier and Stefan Küng are both among the most talented riders for the cobbled races and their progress is likely to continue in 2017. In 2016, they both had an eye on the track and the Olympics and Küng was set back by health issues but now they are ready to take the next step. With Van Avermaet in the team, there won’t be much freedom but both are strong enough to feature in the finales of the big races. Küng is even likely to chase some personal success during this period at the 3 Days of De Panne where he can make use of his exceptional TT qualities.
The big chance for the team will come in the Ardennes. With Gilbert no longer in the team, Van Avermaet will take a leadership role there too. He has done nothing to hide that the hillier classics will be a big goal in the future and even though the cobbles will take priority for now, the consistent Van Avermaet will give it a shot already in 2017. The Amstel Gold Race suits him perfectly and he has already been in the top 10 in the past while working for Gilbert. He will probably skip Fleche Wallonne as the Mur de Huy is too steep for him. Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a huge goal for him but whether he will do the race in 2017 depends on his freshness after a long classics season. In any case, he will probably not have the form to win the next edition but it’s a race that the Belgian can win in the future.
Van Avermaet will be the obvious leader in the Amstel Gold Race but in the harder races, he wll share the leadership with Samuel Sanchez and Ben Hermans. In 2016, the Spaniard proved that he is not done as he was in the top 10 at Fleche Wallonne and very close to the podium in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Of course age will catch up with him at some point but as things stand now, he will be competitive again in 2017. Hermans is finally starting to show how talented he is. He was very strong in 2015 when he won Brabantse Pijl. Last year he failed to reach his best level for the Ardennes but in the autumn, he took the next step. If he can become just a few percent stronger, he could very well be one of the revelations of the 2017 classics season.
Finally, the team also have youngsters Dylan Teuns and Loic Vliegen. Both of them have the potential to become great riders in the hilly classics. They have already had a first taste of the big classics and they have even been close to the best. In 2017, they are ready to go for the top 10.
In the autumn, the team will again mainly look to Van Avermaet. Drucker may get his chance in Hamburg and Plouay, with Van Avermaet likely to cover the attacks in both races. However, the main target for the Belgian before the Worlds should be the Canadian races. In 2016, he was second in Quebec and won in Montreal and he will target similar results in races that suit him down to the ground. Van Avermaet will probably also line up for Il Lombardia but as the race has become harder in recent years, it is probably a bit too mountainous. Instead, the team will look to Samuel Sanchez and Nicolas Roche in the race as both are likely to have ended the Vuelta in good form.
What to expect in the grand tours?
For the 2016 season, BMC signed Richie Porte as one of their grand tour leaders. Surprisingly, they didn’t make the obvious call to appoint the Australian as the outright captain for the Tour de France, at least not publicly. With his past performance at Sky, Porte had clearly shown that he is one of the select few who can realistically challenge Chris Froome in the stage races and even though he was less tested over three weeks, it was evident that the Australian was their only real shot at the podium. Nonetheless, the team opted for two-pronged attacks with Porte sharing the leadership with Tejay van Garderen.
Unsurprisingly, Porte overshadowed van Garderen and clearly marked himself out as a potential grand tour winner. If it hadn’t been for his bad luck in stage 2, he would have been on the podium and he could have challenged Froome if he had been a bit more fortunate. The performance has convinced the management that Porte can realistically dream of overall victory and so he will be the clear-cut leader for the 2017 edition of La Grande Boucle.
Van Garderen was given the choice whether he wanted to go to the Giro as a leader or line up as a domestique in the Tour. Unsurprisingly, the American chose the first option and so he will make his debut in the Italian grand tour. The decision was a wise one as it is way too early to write van Garderen off as a three-week contender. After all, he has been in the top 5 in the Tour twice and the truth is that he has been riding a lot better in the last two years. In fact, he would probably have been close to the podium if he hadn’t fallen ill in the 2015 Tour. Since then, he has had a lot of setbacks and the 2016 season was terrible. However, he just needs to get back on track and rediscover his momentum. In the last two years, he has proved that he has improved his climbing so much that he can realistically aim for the podium in the Giro.
The course in Italy suits van Garderen very well. There are two time trials where he can gain time on most of his rivals. Furthermore, the hardest stages come at the end of the race where he is usually at his best. He will go back to the training approach that has worked in the past so if he can avoid bad luck, he will be a real contender in Italy.
BMC will have a plan B in the Giro. After years of focusing on the time trials, Rohan Dennis will try to make a ‘Bradley Wiggins’. During the next few years, he will try to find out whether it is realistic for him to aim for a grand tour win. In the 2017 Giro, he will ride for GC for the first time. He won’t have a protected role but will be allowed to float around a bit on his own. His aim is to finish in the top 15 or top 10 and with the two time trials, it is definitely possible. However, it remains to be seen how he will handle the strains of three weeks of hard racing. The Australian seems to be a bit inconsistent. He is either very good or very bad and we are not totally convinced that he can avoid a bad day.
It remains to be seen what kind of support van Garderen and Dennis will be given. The main goal is the Tour de France with Porte and so they are likely to have a rather inexperienced team at their side. The is a big chance that riders like Stefan Küng, Silvan Dillier, Loic Vliegen and Dylan Teuns will be present and even though they are very talented riders, they are unlikely to be able to provide support late in the mountain stages. Hence, it will be very much up to van Garderen himself to finish on the podium.
In the Tour, it will be all for Porte. Since 2013, the Australian has been one of the top 5 climbers in the world and he has always been an excellent time triallist too. That has turned him into one of the best one-week stage racers in the world but there were still some questions regarding his ability to handle three weeks of hard racing. He laid those doubts to rest in 2016 and he will line up in France with even more confidence in 2017.
The course doesn’t suit Porte ideally as he would have preferred more time trialling. Nonetheless, he is probably still the third best behind Froome and Nairo Quintana and so he should definitely be very close to the podium. The main challenge will be to avoid bad luck and his many health issues. If he can do that, Porte should be in the top 3 in Paris – and if everything goes perfectly, he even has an outside chance of winning.
Porte will be much better supported than he was in 2017. Van Garderen may ride as a luxury domestique and Nicolas Roche and Damiano Caruso will be excellent support riders in the mountains. Samuel Sanchez is also likely to be present and if he can find the legs he had in the Vuelta, Ben Hermans will be a crucial rider too.
There won’t be much room for the domestiques to chase personal success but Greg Van Avermaet will of course be given some freedom. The Belgian won the stage to Rodez in 2015 and he would love to win there again in 2017. Furthermore, he should have a shot at victory in stage 3 which has another puncheur finish. Finally, the team may be tempted to go for the first yellow jersey with Rohan Dennis but everything will depend on his level of fatigue after the Giro.
It is still unclear what BMC will do at the Vuelta. If he skips the Tour, van Garderen may line up for the Spanish race too but he is likely to share the leadership with Roche and Sanchez. Roche has traditionally been very strong when he has done the Spanish race on the back of the Tour. Most recently, he was up there with the best in 2015 until he was involved in acrash and it is likely that he can reach that level again. Sanchez was in the top 10 in 2015 and would have been so again in 2016 if it hadn’t been for a bad crash in the time trial. Hence, the team will have lots of options and they should target a third consecutive top 10 in 2017. Furthermore, Jempy Drucker is likely to take his chances in the sprints. In the last two years, he has been one of the fastest in the Spanish race and there is a solid chance that he can win a stage for the second year in a row.
What to expect elsewhere?
In the last few years, Richie Porte has been one of the best one-week stage racers. In 2016, however, he opted for a more calm approach to the spring where he deliberately wanted to have a slower start without reaching his peak form. Nonetheless, he was second in the Tour Down Under, third in Paris-Nice and fourth in both the Volta a Catalunya and the Criterium du Dauphiné. He was even set back by illness before the Race to the Sun and so it speaks volumes about his class that he still managed to be so close to the win in all those races.
In 2017, Porte wants to hit the ground running and he wants to win a few races to boost his confidence before the Tour. He has done nothing to hide that he finally wants to turn his may Willunga stage wins into an overall victory in the Tour Down Under and this automatically turns him into the pre-race favourite for his home race. In the past, he has always won Paris-Nice when it has been a major goal for him so there is no reason that he can’t win that race again. Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Tour de Romandie are all within his reach too and there is a big chance that he will end up as the stage racer of the spring.
With his focus on the Giro, Tejay van Garderen will probably be less strong in the first part of the year. However, the American has traditionally been one of the best at the start of the season and he should still be competitive in the one-week stage races. He may have a less intense schedule but he could be in contention for the win at Tirreno-Adriatico where he will naturally benefit from the team time trial. As he is always good in his build-up races, he is likely to be strong in the Tour de Romandie too.
BMC always have a big focus on the American races and that is likely to be the case in 2017 too. Brent Bookwalter has developed into a bit of a specialist in the stage races and he should be a podium contender in the Tour of California, the Tour of Utah and the new races in Colorado and Virginia. Depending on his schedule, van Garderen may also be keen to return to some of his home stage races after a few years of absence and if that’s the case, he will be one of the favourites.
Rohan Dennis is destined to win some of the time trials during the year as he is a favourite for almost every race against the clock. In the second half of the year, he will be fully focused on the Worlds where he will be one of the big favourites to become world champion even if there is a tough climb at the finish in Norway. Stefan Küng and Tom Bohli are two of the most promising time triallists too and they are both capable of winning shorter TTs somewhere.
Finally, Greg Van Avermaet has won the Belgium Tour in the past and he has been close to overall victory in the Eneco Tour. Both stage races should be goals for the versatile Belgian and he must be particularly keen to finally win the latter race which is important due to its position on the WorldTour calendar.
Who’s ready to surprise?
BMC have a clear focus on the development of young talents and they have four riders who have gradually reached the level to be competitive in the biggest races. Especially, Stefan Küng stands out. The Swiss has rightfully been described as the new Fabian Cancellara as he has many of the same skills. His first two years at the pro level have been marred by a remarkable number of illnesses and crashes and this has prevented him from showing his full potential. However, he has already indicated that he can develop into one of the best time triallists. In 2017, he is ready to take a big TT win and this could lead to overall victory in shorter stage races like the 3 Days of De Panne. Furthermore, his big win at the 2015 Tour de Romandie shows that he has the engine for the road races too and so it is just a matter of time before he makes an impact in the cobbled classics.
Silvan Dillier will also target the cobbled classics and is a bit similar to Küng. Even though he is a solid time triallist, he will never be as strong as his compatriot in that discipline, but he has the potential to match him in the one-day races. In 2016, he had his eyes on the track and so we are very curious to see what he can do when he turns his attention fully to the road.
We had big expectations for Dylan Teuns in his first pro year in 2015. However, his development has been a bit slower than anticipated but his performances at U23 level shows that the talent is there. The skinny Belgian did well in the Ardennes where he was 17th in Liege and 18th in Amstel. He should be able to do even better in 2017. Loic Vliegen is a very similar rider and he was even 9th in his first ever Amstel Gold Race. Like Teuns, he is ready to show himself in the hilly races in 2017.
Finally, we will point to Tom Bohli and Ben Hermans. The former marked himself out as future top time triallist with his second place at the 3 Days of De Panne TT and course record at the 3 Days of West-Flanders TT. He still needs more endurance in the road races but he will be very strong in short time trials. Hermans is no longer a young rider but he took a remarkable step in the autumn of 2016. We are very curious to see how far he can get in the Ardennes in 2017.
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|José Luis NEGUERUELA COBO|
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