Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2015 Team Preview: BMC Development Team

Over the past couple seasons, Rik Verbrugghe has crafted a well-oiled machine at the BMC Development Team that has churned out 3 professionals and soon to be 4 when Loïc Vliegen turns pro in July with BMC. The team has also succeed in a place that has given Patrick Lefevere near heart attacks in that all of the riders to turn pro from the team have gone to the BMC pro team. Lefevere had multiple conniptions about his development riders heading to different teams and it got to the point that he quit funding the EFC-OPQS team because he wasn't seeing the results.

2015 is going to be different for BMC Development. Rik Verbrugghe is gone to IAM Cycling. He was the mind behind the team that has produced Silvan Dillier, Stefan Küng and Dylan Teuns. Replacing Verbrugghe is another Belgian ex-pro in Geert Van Bondt, a former winner of Gent-Wevelgem as well as a director with Garmin-Sharp for the last 3 years.

Unlike the teams that I have previewed so far this year, BMC Development is bringing back a large chunk of its team with 10 riders from their 2014 roster. These riders include Valentin Baillifard, Tom Bohli, TJ Eisenhart, Killan Frankiny, Johan Hemroulle, Lukas Spengler, Bas Tietema, Alexey Vermeulen, Loïc Vliegen and Tyler Williams. While they are losing some of their big guns, they still have some interesting young talent that could make the next step next year. Obviously Vliegen is going to be one of the cornerstones of the team but the Americans in Vermeulen and Eisenhart will be looking to step in in the GC realm and in the mountains while Williams, Spengler and Tietema have done well in the one days and should keep it going.

There are 5 new additions to the team that should give them a good depth and should get them even more wins than last year. The new additions include:
-The obvious big signing for the team is Australian sprinter Jesse Kerrison, who is coming from Budget Forklifts. The big test will be if Kerrison can adapt to the longer, harder racing and if he can, he has the finishing kick to take some wins in Europe. He took 11 wins in 2014, mainly on the Australian NRS circuit, but he did take 2 sprint wins in the late-season Chinese races. He probably would have won some more if he didn't come down with illness at Taihu Lake.

-Floris Gerts comes from Rabobank Development after his final year as a U23 and he showed some promise in one-day races, especially in the late season. His season was scattered with top 15 placings and he did ride the 2.1 Tour des Fjords, where he finished 25th after making the front groups on every stage. While he will be in his first year as a non-U23 senior, Gerts has not been racing seriously for very long and really emerged in 2013. Look for him in hard one-days in Northern Europe and in breakaways.

 -Coming from the junior ranks is the Swiss wunderkind Patrick Müller, the winner of the last two Swiss Junior RR titles and multiple Swiss and European medals on the track. He has won multiple stages in the Pays de Vaud over the last couple of years. BMC Development has had great success with young Swiss road and track riders such as Stefan Küng and Silvan Dillier. I expect no less from Müller.

-Speaking of strong, young Swiss track riders, Théry Schir comes over from EKZ Racing and should be able to make an instant impact in the classic races, time trials and even as a lead-out man for the designated sprinter. Schir has a bronze Worlds medal to his name in the Madison (with Stefan Küng) and has made a name for himself on the track with 2 European U23 titles in the team pursuit. On the road, he won the U23 Swiss TT (since Stefan Küng didn't start) and is a good rouleur.

-Lastly, BMC Devo has Nathan Van Hooydonck coming over from Bissell. The nephew of Edwig, Nathan didn't race a lot with Bissell this year as he was still finishing school and spent the first half fo the year riding kermesses in Belgium. He did win 5 races in Belgium this year, albeit the majority of them were small races without a lot of other talent. He takes after his uncle in that he is a classics talent and will most assuredly be a factor in a few one-days this year. Also look for him in the Nations Cup races with Belgium, if he get selected by the national team.

Something interesting about BMC Development is that they chose to keep their amateur status and not be a UCI Continental team. While this means they don't get a chance to race any .1 or .HC races, they get a steady diet of continental races as well as amateur races in America, Asia and Europe. Van Bondt highlighted that the team would be targeting similar races in 2015 that they did in 2014 including Tour de Normandie, Tour de Bretagne, Giro della Valle d'Aosta, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Paris-Roubaix.

2014 is going to be a tough act to follow with the departures. All of their 8 UCI wins last year came from Stefan Kung, Dylan Teuns and Ignazio Moser, all of whom are leaving the team. Vliegen won the Triptyque Ardennaise in Belgium and should get the team a few wins before departing to the mothership. Spengler got close a few times in some one-day races and could make the step up to take some wins. Perhaps the Americans or Tietema could breakthrough for one. It will be interesting see as well if Van Bondt can keep the team as well oiled as Verbrugghe had them going.

Prediction: 6 UCI wins (15 overall including amateur races)

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