23 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 12 - BMC

Six of the team that BMC are sending to France helped Cadel Evans to his win in 2011. However, while there are places for the 2009 World Champion and reigning World Champion Philippe Gilbert there is no space for the 2010 World Champion Thor Hushovd. Thor has pulled out of the 2012 Giro and subsequent Tour which would have been his 12th is a row with a viral infection which was affecting his muscles, but has returned to form this season. So the team with so many rainbow rings of the sleeves is one less for this Tour.

Cadel Evans is the most recent of the three past winners to be taking part in this year's Tour now that the defending champion will not be there. It is his 9th consecutive Tour de France. But the only other time he did this on the back of a ride in the Giro in 2010 he finished a disappointing 26th, one of only two times he failed to finish in the top 10. He says himself that he was a surprise call up for BMC's Giro squad, but he ended up on the third step of podium. He has now been on the podium of all three Grand Tours, his 3rd in the 2009 Vuelta, his 2011 Tour win (plus his 2nds in 2007 & 2008). While his third in the Giro is good he ended behind Rigoberto Uran who was meant to have been riding in support of Wiggins and hasn't even made the Sky team for the Tour. Before his third in Giro there were some doubting his ability to still challenge for GCs in Grand Tours and indeed many felt he wasn't even the best GC hope in his own team. But maybe there is fight in the only Aussie to have won a Grand Tour.

The young American from Washington state Tejay van Garderen is still eligible for the Young Rider Classification he picked up last year when finishing 5th. There were many last year who felt that at times the younger rider looked stronger than his team leader and maybe spent too long protecting him in the Pyrénées, if he hadn't might he have finished higher in the overall. This year he has won the Amgen Tour of California and was 4th in Paris-Nice where he lost out on the Young Rider jersey to fellow American Garmin's Andrew Talansky. But he got the better of Talansky and only came behind the duo from Sky Froome and Porte in the Critérium International. It is yet to be seen if Tejay or Cadel will come top of the BMC riders this year. Also if Cadel gets into trouble will Tejay be made to wait and assist or will he get the nod to go for it.

Philippe Gilbert will be wearing the rainbow strips as world champion for all the non-time trial stages of the race. He is a classics specialist having won the Amstel Gold, Giro di Lombardie and Paris-Tours twice. In 2011 he became only the second person to win the three Ardennes classics Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. These three one day races occur within 8 days in April, but they were in the middle of a remarkable run as Gilbert had already won the one day De Brabantse Pijl and went on to win the Tour of Belgium and Ster ZLM Toer, then won the Belgian national road race title before taking the first stage in the Tour de France. It was a season that saw him win four more times after he arrived in Paris giving his the UCI Tour Championship. Last year was inevitably a bit of a come down but there are signs that he is back to his attacking best this season. It will interesting to see if he is allowed to go on the attack in the medium mountains.

American Brent Bookwalter is a time trialist. Sadlyin May he missed out just on both the American Road Race and Time Trial championships, second in both. But earlier this season he did record his first pro win with the first stage of the Tour of Oman. This will be his third Tour, the last being the one won by Cadel Evans in 2011. His best individual result in the Tour was in the 2010 Prologue where he finished 10th around the streets of Rotterdam.

Marcus Burghardt of Germany is a classics specialist but in 2010 he picked up the points classification in the Tour de Suisse and the Mountain's Classification in this year's Tour de Romandie. This is his sixth tour since his debut in 2007, he only missed in 2009, and he has made it around each time. He also picked up a stage win in 2008 when he and Carlos Barredo battled it out on stage 18 into St Etienne during his Columbia days.

France's Amaël Moinard must have had all the French thinking they had another man who might deliver that first Tour home since Hinault when on his debut in 2008 he finished 15th. But since then his best result in the other four Tours has been 45th. A lot of that great result in 2008 was down to him making a long lone breakaway that finally got swamped by a group of 11 but ended up over 14 minutes ahead of the main field on stage 11 to Foix. For that effort he was awarded the most combative prize on the stage.

Swiss rider Steve Morabito has already accompanied Evans around this years Giro, in which he finished 34th. This will be his third Tour again he was another of those on the BMC Team that helps Evans secure his title. His best pro result was 4th in the 2010 Tour de Suisse in which he was beaten by Frank Schleck by a mere 23 seconds, Lance Armstrong and Jakob Fuglsang.

Italian Manuel Quinziato was new to the BMC team when he was part of the support for Evans 2011 win. This will be the 8th Tour for the 33 year old. In 2006, his second participation he actually managed to come 4th on two separate stages of the Tour. In 2009 he came 9th in Paris Roubaix. He has mainly been a utility rider through his career, but in 2003 he came close to claiming his National Time Trial championship when he came second.

The final rider is 26 year old Michael Schar from Switzerland. He too was a part of that 2011 Tour win for Evans, when he completed his first Grand Bouclé. But that was his completion of the three Grand Tours since his debut just shy of his 23rd birthday in the 2009 Vuelta a España. He's ridden the Tours of Oman, Qatar, California, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Suisse in preparation for the Tour this year. Hoping to once again lead a BMC rider to victory on the Champs-Élysées.

The big question for BMC is does Cadel Evans have enough in his legs to podium in the Tour after his podium in the Giro. That was a tough race to complete never mind complete in contention plus the last time he doubled up those two Tours he was off the pace in France. But he does have three of what he calls his guardian angels from that 2011 Tour around him once more Quinziato, Burghardt and Schar. There is the ready made back up plan with Tejay, the young American may well be the second American to be Tour de France Champion. It may not be this year with Froome, Contador and Rodriguez to contend with, but once he is installed as the Team Leader he will be hungry for that success. BMC should have at least one rider in the top ten of the GC come Paris, I'm just not sure that they'll have two.

* Now that Lance Armstrong's titles have been wiped from the record books.

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