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