To see Spring Classics veteran George Hincapie floundering at Roubaix leaves question marks over his performance for the rest of the season, writes Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

I'm becoming a little concerned about Team BMC.


That Cadel Evans needed to jump the Goodship Lotto or whatever its
latest incarnation is called was necessary - last year, there was just
one too many occasions where they weren't there for him.

To the
Belgians running that team and to many of his team-mates, his admittedly
quirky traits and personality became increasingly anachronistic.

His
win in Mendrisio demonstrated what a cohesive, united force can
achieve, under the guidance of an impartial team manager and team-mates
prepared to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

So while I
was satisfied to see Evans leave, I questioned his choice in this
upstart they call the BMC Racing Team, where their primary goal,
according to his current team-mate George Hincapie, is to push the bike
brand. A very commercial objective.

Evans told me at January's
Tour Down Under he found BMC owner Andy Rihs' verve intoxicating – so
much so, that he felt comfortable with his decision to leave Lotto after
their very first meeting. And after speaking to Rihs for the best part
of an hour there, I have to agree.

Yet the hodgepodge team they
assembled in no time at all, despite containing a modest amount of
talent, I wasn't so sure about – and still am not.

When I
interviewed Cadel at the TDU, it was obvious the two-time Tour runner-up
was desperate to leave Lotto, although he didn't say as much. But in
desperation, had he thought through all his options, and communicated
his desire to enough prospective teams?

Because
Garmin-Transitions manager Jonathan Vaughters, well-known for extracting
the best out of his charges when other managers/sport directors had
given up or stopped trying, said he wished he'd known Evans was thinking
about leaving.

The inevitable, much-publicised departure of
Bradley Wiggins to Team Sky at the end of last year meant Vaughters had
the space – and budget – for Cadel, had he known.

Now, we find
two BMC riders, Italians Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio,
suspended as part of an ongoing doping probe in Italy; it relates to
when both rode for Lampre.

Ballan, winner of the 2007 Tour of
Flanders and world road champion a year later in Varese, Italy, was
supposed to be one of the team's main men for the Spring Classics, and a
valuable ally for Evans at the Giro and Tour.

The suspension is
cautionary, part of the protocol for any ProTour team – but in any
case, does not bode well for BMC.

Then in Sunday's Paris-Roubaix,
Hincapie had no excuses not to perform in his pet event. Days before,
he told the media not to count him out, that he was still a contender – a
favourite, even – yet the native New Yorker struggled in his
seventeenth Roubaix appearance.

Okay, no-one could match the move
of Fabian Cancellara nor chase him down, but when Boonen initiated the
futile pursuit, Big George could not go with him and seven others. "It
just wasn't my day today," said Hincapie.

"I could tell 20
kilometres into the race today that I didn't have the legs to win. I was
having a hard time following the accelerations and I basically ran out
of fuel. I just wasn't firing on all cylinders today. It was pretty
unfortunate," he said.

Has Hincapie battered his 36-year-old body
one too many times in this most unforgiving race they moniker 'The Hell
of the North'?

More importantly going forward, can he provide
the unfailing level of support he gave to Lance Armstrong in the Texan's
Tour-winning years – or through circumstance rather than wont, will his
role be confined to the flats and medium mountain stages?

Based
on talent, renewed confidence post-Mendrisio, and desire, I still give
Evans close to even odds of winning this year's Giro d'Italia, barring
incident. In March's Tirreno-Adriatico, finishing third overall on what
was probably 80-85 percent form was impressive.

The Tour,
however, where the strength of one's team is arguably more important, is
a different story.

Come July, here's hoping that Hincapie's role
as road captain and right-hand man will live up to his own, BMC Racing,
and Cadel's expectations.

You can follow Anthony on Twitter at twitter.com/anthony_tan