The BMC Racing Team, with World Champion Cadel Evans, will compete in its first Tour de France when the world's greatest bicycle race begins July 3 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
The announcement of an invitation to participate as one of 22 teams comes one week after the BMC Racing Team learned it had received a berth in the Giro d'Italia. In addition to the Australian Evans, the U.S.-based, professional continental team features U.S. national road race champion and 14-time Tour de France participant George Hincapie.
Ochowicz Heading Back To France
BMC Racing Team President Jim Ochowicz, one of the most influential figures in American cycling history, said he is as excited about going to the race as he was back in 1986 when he managed the first U.S. professional team (7-Eleven) to compete in the Tour de France. "I know that none of this comes easily," Ochowicz said. "From our standpoint, it's a team effort to get there - not just one or two individuals. Everyone from the riders, to the staff, to our sponsors has contributed to the effort. It's a great honor to have earned the invitation. Now we have a responsibility to show up at the race and perform."
'A Very Clear Vision'
Co-Owner Andy Rihs, one of the key figures in the rapid growth of the BMC Racing Team, said he learned of the announcement much like everyone else - by reading the list of teams in a French newspaper. "We're very, very happy to be going to the Tour," Rihs said. "We have the contenders and we are sure that the quality of talent on our team was in fact good enough for selection." The Swiss business owner of BMC bicycles said it has been his goal to get a team back to the Tour de France "This team has a very clear vision: to promote BMC bicycles worldwide more and more," he said. "So being in the race will certainly help us to do that."
Lelangue No Stranger To The Tour
For BMC Racing Team Director Sportif John Lelangue, this will be his 20th Tour de France on a number of levels. He worked for Tour de France organizer ASO prior to his time as sports director and manager of the Phonak Hearing Systems team and has also commentated about the race for Belgium TV. Lelangue said the BMC Racing Team built its program around participation in the Tour, not knowing if it would be selected. "For me, it's a big satisfaction for the team and also for Cadel because we know he is one of the possible contenders," Lelangue said. "I think we have already proven since the beginning of the season, in races like the Tour Down Under, Tirreno-Adriatico and Criterium International, that we have a strong team for stage races."
Evans: 'It Is A Reward'
Cadel Evans, who has started five Tours, worn the yellow jersey for five days and twice finished as runner-up (2007, 2008), said Tuesday's announcement was reassuring to know all the planning and preparation he has already put in will be put to good use during the month of July. "While I was never sure we would be in the Tour, I did not have much doubt that we would be left out, as I felt our team deserved to be in the Tour de France," Evans said. "I think for everyone at the BMC Racing Team, it is a reward for their good work in building an internationally competitive cycling team."
Hincapie Looks Forward To Tour
George Hincapie said he was "ecstatic" to receive the news. "I'm sure there will be days during the Tour when I'll be suffering and wondering what the heck I'm doing back again," he said. "But obviously I still feel good and I want to continue doing the Tour de France as long as my body feels good." The U.S. national road champion signed on with the BMC Racing Team last fall without any guarantee that the professional continental team would receive an invitation to the Tour. "We have a ton of talent on the team and a lot of experienced riders and I think the ASO believes we can put on a really good show in July," Hincapie said. Participating in the Tour is also the perfect opportunity to showcase Hincapie Sportswear, the clothing company that sponsors the team that he co-owns with his brother, Rich. "The opportunity to have our clothing be a part of the biggest cycling event - if not the biggest sporting event in the world - on worldwide TV for three weeks is terrific. I couldn't
ask for anything better."
Showcasing The BMC Brand
Mike Hürlimann, Chief Executive Officer of BMC, said the BMC Racing Team's appearance in the 21-day, 3,600-kilometer race will provide the perfect testing and proving environment for the company's line of bicycles. "It is in our heritage and tradition that we develop our products in a close relation with our professional athletes," he said. "The Tour de France gives us the best opportunity to prove that, with our latest developments, we are able to compete on the highest level."