BRENT BOOKWALTER

The Amer­i­can re lects on 10 years as a pro and the chang­ing faces of BMC

Procycling - - Prologue -

It’s been wild ride with BMC. When I signed with the team in 2008 I was com­ing off a bad leg frac­ture in May 2007 and I didn’t know if my ca­reer would con­tinue. The team was still small and we didn’t know where it was go­ing. I knew I wanted to get to Europe but cul­tur­ally it was nice to have that large Amer­i­can com­po­nent. It also had the per­spec­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence of Euro­peans like Alex Moos and the DS John Le­langue. In a way, the WorldTour came to me. Go­ing into 2010, the team was com­pletely re­vamped. I re­mem­ber Gavin Chilcott [a mem­ber of BMC’s se­nior man­age­ment] telling me we were go­ing big. They’d signed George Hin­capie, Alessan­dro Bal­lan and Cadel Evans. At that point I had a con­tract for the next year and it was a lit­tle bit of a dream come true. I didn’t ex­pect to be rac­ing along­side rid­ers I’d been look­ing up to that quickly. I re­mem­ber turn­ing up at the first train­ing camp pretty wide-eyed but there to be a sponge and learn every­thing I could.

2010 was trial by fire. The Giro was my first Grand Tour and I rode the Tour as well. I was 26, so not that young but still in­ex­pe­ri­enced: I hadn’t done a race that was more than seven or eight days. This was also still in the time of An­gelo Zomeg­nan as Giro di­rec­tor. We had these ab­surd stages, ab­surd trans­fers and nuts neu­tral zones that added 20km to stages. We started in Hol­land, mean­ing a rest day af­ter three stages and then 13 days un­til the next one. It was ter­ri­ble weather too. Some of my hard­est, most hor­rific days of all time were in that Giro.

Cadel and I had a good re­la­tion­ship. It was kind of a men­tor-stu­dent thing. My sec­ond place on the open­ing time trial of that Giro set the tone. He was pleased and vo­cal with my per­for­mance. Cadel kept say­ing, ‘I told you to watch this guy.’ But when the Tour came around I was the least con­fi­dent in my abil­ity. The team kept ask­ing me: ‘Do you think you can be good again in July?’ I kept say­ing I didn’t know, that it was un­charted ter­ri­tory. I went, and I re­mem­ber re­ally suf­fer­ing through the first week and open­ing up again. I fin­ished on empty but that year was in­flu­en­tial in my de­vel­op­ment. In the 2011 Tour which Cadel won, the team plan was just to take it day by day. BMC was a big pres­ence at the front in the open­ing stages and it def­i­nitely cost us en­ergy and horse­power, but you can’t win the Tour if you lose it on one of the early days. We weren’t a team of climb­ing su­per­stars, but it was re­ally a case of all for one and one for all, one day at a time.

Af­ter win­ning the Tour the team had a feel­ing of tran­si­tion again. Af­ter what we’d done as a squad and the sign­ings the team made [in­clud­ing Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gil­bert] we had a lot to live up to. If I had to pick a low point with the team it was 2012. It was tough to find my­self within that struc­ture. I’d de­fined my­self as a worker, but we’d grown to a level where no-one could just be a worker - ev­ery­one had to bring re­sults to the table. We had these su­per­stars who got most of the op­por­tu­ni­ties but they didn’t get the re­sult for what­ever rea­son, and when I got the op­por­tu­nity I wasn’t up to it. Hav­ing said that, it did make me re-eval­u­ate my­self and be much more pos­i­tive in tak­ing on lead­er­ship roles when they come about. In a way it re­minds me of why I got into this sport in the first place, as a driven, com­pet­i­tive rider who wanted to win.

Now BMC’s changed once more. There are lots of young guys com­ing through and they’ve not ar­rived on the path that I did. The young guys BMC gets are the cream of the crop. Take Ste­fan Kung: he joined the team at 21, 22 and prob­a­bly had more ex­pe­ri­ence than me at 32 in a high stakes TT/pro­logue en­vi­ron­ment. But it’s give and take be­cause I can of­fer them ad­vice on tak­ing care of them­selves in a stage-rac­ing sce­nario. It’s cer­tainly keep­ing me hun­gry.

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