Thursday, December 24, 2015

2016 Team Preview: BMC Development

Half of the riders here are now on World Tour teams, including two with BMC.
(WikiCommons - Tour de Bretagne 2014)
With Rik Verbrugghe leaving the team that he had forged for IAM  Cycling, BMC Development was left in the hands of Jens Blatter and Geert Van Bondt taking over the directing role. Would the team falter or stagnate after a wildly successful 2014? Well, they were not hurting for results. With the Loïc Vliegen with the team for the first half of the year along the Tom Bohli and Floris Gerts, the trio proceeded to take 10 wins before June. Lukas Spengler took the biggest win of the season by winning the wet and cold Paris-Roubaix Espoirs in solo fashion. Alexey Vermeulen and Kilian Frankiny were big players in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Nathan Van Hooydonck started to come into his own and won the Belgian U23 RR. On all accounts, it was a very successful season. Yet 2016 looks like it could be a different story as 5 riders are moving to the professional ranks (as well as others moving on) and the team is bringing on 6 junior riders to begin to next building phase. Did I mention there will be a new director for 2016?

BMC Development

IN: Keegan Swirbul (Axeon), Zeke Mostov (Cal Giant), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Netherlands), Sam Dobbs (New Zealand) (as of 7/1/16), Bram Welten (Netherlands), Pavel Sivakov (Russia/France), Leo Appelt (Germany), Fabien Leinhard (EKZ Racing), Martin Schäppi (Switzerland) and Mario Spengler (Switzerland)

Bold = coming from junior ranks

STAY: TJ Eisenhart, Kilian Frankiny, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Bas Tietema, Lukas Spengler and Patrick Müller

OUT: Alexey Vermeulen (Lotto-JumboNL),  Tyler Williams (Axeon), Floris Gerts & Tom Bohli (BMC) Loic Vliegen (BMC - mid-year), Johan Hemroulle (Color Code-Aquality Protect), Jesse Kerrison (Charter Mason), Valentin Baillifard (Roth Gruppe)

Spengler winning in the muck of Roubaix
Photo: Jean-Marc Hecquet
The most recent news from the team is the departure of Geert Van Bondt and recently retired Klaas Lodewyck replacing him as the team's director. Will this be a huge shake within the team? Only time will tell. What is probably the most pressing for next year is the huge departure of riders from the 2015 team. Remember the trio of Vliegen, Bohli and Gerts? All are gone to the big BMC team. Vermeulen is headed for Lotto-Jumbo NL while Baillifard heads to the embattled Roth Gruppe Pro Continental team. Hemroulle is out to a Belgian continental team. Kerrison got shafted with the Dynamo Cover Pro Team but found refuge with Charter Mason. Recently engaged Tyler Williams is moving to Axeon for his final U23 season.

That leaves less than half of the 2015 roster in tact for the new year. While there are just six riders, they are no slouches.

I'm still trying to figure out TJ Eisenhart. He was a prodigious junior talent but does he have what it takes to prove himself on another level? He is one of the most positive people out there and shows flashes of brilliance but the results did not come the past year.

Frankiny came alive in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta after going 2nd on the final stage to vault all the way up to 4th overall. Now he didn't do this in every stage race but he showed promise in Utah with the big boy team. Can he string together a couple good mountain races?

While he might have fallen on Libby Hill on the final lap of the U23 Men's RR, Nathan Van Hooydonck made 2015 a bit of a coming out party as he began to show the potential that saw many salivating over him as a junior. He found what is probably his perfect stage race in the Olympia's Tour, where he finished 3rd overall, and won the Belgium U23 RR out of a small group sprint. He was only in his 2nd year and he should have a lot more coming his way in terms of results.

Tietema is another of the strong powerhouses that was strong in both the Olympia's Tour and in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, where he was 10th. Perhaps a bit inconsistent with the results but he is one that shows that glimmer.

Not to say that Lukas Spengler's victory in P-R Espoirs was a fluke but...well, his results from this year don't necessarily rebuke that statement. It was a hell of a ride on a hellish day but more of a Jean-Marie Wampers than Tom Boonen, eh?

In just his first U23 season, Patrick Müller rode quite well and while he didn't win 10 races, he did ride quite consistently in hilly events including a 10th overall in the Rhône Alpes Isere Tour and leading group (and top 20) finishes in the Trofeo Piva, Giro del Belvedere and Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23. He did split time between the road and velodrome so with that still up in the air for 2016, he could be in for a similar year results wise unless he keeps his nose to the grind.

While that is a good collection of riders, that is less than half of the team for the new year. While these new juniors are strong, are they going to be able to compete right out of the gate?

First let's look at the riders that have some U23 experience under their belts...

For those that follow the U23 ranks, one of the bigger intra-U23 off-season moves was Keegan Swirbul leaving Axeon for BMC Development, citing a chance to get more exposure to European races. Swirbul, who was a cross-country skier in his younger years before moving to MTB and eventually the road side of cycling just a couple of years ago. He has had some problems with injuries through his two years but when he is on, he can go with the best of them. He really just needs to get some race miles underneath him and once he gets his feet set, he can go for results in the high mountains or harder one day races (remember, he is the the US U23 RR Champion).

The other American joining Swirbul is Middlebury College student Zeke Mostov, who is coming from Cal Giant. Mostov was 3rd place in the Junior World TT in Florence in 2013 as a first year junior and followed it up with a 5th in Ponferrada against the likes of Lennard Kämna, Adrien Costa and Filippo Ganna. Mostov didn't go into the deep end in his first year as a U23 but rode consistently in the top 20 overall of American events including the North Star GP, Cascade Classic and Green Mountain Stage Race. If he doesn't get thrown into the deep end too quickly, he could begin to show himself as a potential GC rider, especially in races with a decisive time trial.

The only rider that will not be in the U23 ranks for next year is a rider that has gone 12th and 6th in the past two U23 World RR Championships. Fabian Lienhard is a one-day racer. He can get through a stage race but his heart lies in the pursuit of emptying the tank on one course, on one day.

The last non-junior hasn't raced much outside of the junior ranks. So Martin Schäppi, you might have been a talented rider as a junior but you better bring your big boy muscles to the game.

It should be said that the team deserves a massive tip of the cap for getting this much junior talent together on the same team. Junior World TT Championship, check; 1-2 finishers from Paris-Roubaix Juniors, check; Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors winner, check; Junior World Pursuit Champion, check; A little brother, check.

The first time that I saw Leo Appelt, he looked like a junior version of Tony Martin. His cadance metronomic. He won the Junior World Time Trial Championship in a bit of an upset ahead of American favorites Adrien Costa and Brandon McNulty. In the road race, he was struck with mechanical difficulty and had to ride a Shimano spare bike up the cobbled 23rd Street that had clip pedals. While this took him out of contention, he had the look of a strong, powerful rider that could rip the cranks off a bike.

While his passport might read Russia, Pavel Sivakov has grown up outside of the motherland. Born in Italy, Pavel grew up in the foothills of the French Pyrenees with two ex-cyclists for parents though they were not pushy about getting him onto a bike. His father, Alexei, primarily rode with BigMat-Auber 93 during his career where he rode 6 Grand Tours. His mother, Alexandra Koliaseva, was 2nd in the Giro Donne in 1989, 4th in the Tour de France Feminin and was a double World Champion in the Team Time Trial with Russia. His father was the manager for the first iterations of the Itera-Katusha squads in the mid to late 00s. With Moscow Stars and Katyusha, the team was a scourge on the European peloton and riders like Timofey Kritskiy, Denis Galimzyanov and Alexander Porsev, to name but a few. Sivakov's talent has a wide range and this first U23 season will be used to flesh out where he should concentrate. He won the junior Ronde van Vlaanderen, can time trial very well and seems to do well on undulating courses that don't allow for much rest. Read about his upbringing and move to the team on Directvelo (in French).

If you saw the results here, you might suspect he won from a sprint but
Eenkhoorn stuck a late attack to win the Bernaudeau Junior
Another strong all-arounder that prefers a bit flatter terrain is Pascal Eenkhoorn. The picture above describes only one part of his style. Eenkhoorn was 2nd in Paris-Roubaix Juniors, can roll a decent time trial and isn't bad in a bunch sprint either. I think he will try to develop the art of the breakaway as a U23 to get more wins like his Bernadeau Junior victory.

Speaking of the Paris-Roubaix Juniors, Bram Welten won that race. Welten is a hardman that gets results by making breakaways or decisive splits. He won the P-R Juniors out of a two-man sprint; a solo win in the Guido Reybrouck Classic and a small group sprint in a stage of the Driedaagse van Axel.

After being announced with the Attaque Team Gusto, it seems that Sam Dobbs won't be joining BMC Development until about May. Dobbs was active in Belgium last year with the Isorex Team and he won a couple of races including one over U23 cyclocross star Eli Iserbyt. He has been riding on the Australian NRS circuit the past couple of seasons and is more or less looking for a smooth transition to Europe. Read more about the move here.

Last but no least is the little brother Mario Spengler. He is the Luigi to his brother if his parents were smart, they would have just named him Luigi. Unless Lukas is adopted and there is a 3rd brother named Luigi. But I digress. Luigi Spengler is a pretty good all-arounder that can do fairly well on all type of courses. He didn't have much of a specialty as a junior so I'll be curious to see what he develops into as a U23.


I think there will certainly be a bit of a transitionary period for this team as they lack a rider that gets results at will such as Loïc Vliegen, Dylan Teuns or Stefan Küng did in the past. That being said, the team should be able to mesh well and be fairly successful next year.

Espoirs Central 2016 Prediction: 25 wins (on the road) and 8 UCI wins.

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