Twelve months after the departure of its founding Sports Director John Lelangue, BMC is proceeding full bore with a dramatic restructure set to further establish Allan Peiper’s vision for its future. While it’s still early days, there’s plenty of promise from the first forays of Peiper's reign at the helm, writes Al Hinds.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

The struggle watching BMC for so many years was seeing a team with one of the biggest financial war chests in the professional peloton be so categorically wasteful with its resource and talent.

Riders were recruited haphazardly. Money splashed where it wasn't needed, saved where it was. In the classics squad, the team brought in no less than four different leaders, all geared to the same races. Roubaix, and Flanders. Ballan, Burghardt, Hushovd, Van Avermaet. Even more hilarious was that Van Avermaet left Lotto to be given more opportunities, opportunities he wasn't being given there because of the presence of Philippe Gilbert. Then in 2012, BMC recruited Gilbert. Seriously.

At the Tour, the strategy was just as confused. For how many years did Cadel Evans demand a solid mountain domestique to shepherd him in the Alps and Pyrenees, and for how long was that demand, ignored, or poorly solved? The year Evans eventually won the Tour, in 2011, came not on the wings of his team, but on his own personal grit and stubbornness. He was isolated time and time again in the mountains, but saved face because he was simply stronger than the rest. That he won yellow in the final time trial around Grenoble, a race of the individual, could not have been more appropriate.

But it wasn't just recruitment where BMC faltered. Its ambitions were never entirely obvious, to the public, and I can only imagine, internally as well. Was the Tour the goal, or the Giro? Did it want to win the world championships, or the classics? Was a stage race victory more important than a one-day one? A sort of, catch all approach ensued, with a highly versatile squad, but one that wasn't particularly excellent in any specific regard.

For a while, this whole, abjectly chaotic approach, worked. Kinda. Primarily, because BMC was still full of talented riders. It was still going to find wins here and there. It was still going to be a top team. Its blushes were spared, mostly.

The last few years however has seen things unravel. As similarly resourced teams upped their games, BMC stagnated, and this stagnation was particularly pronounced at last year's Tour. Which, ultimately, led to departure of John Lelangue, and the appointment of Peiper in his place.

The saviour? Hardly. Just a man. But one with the experience and know-how that BMC sorely needed. In the time he's been involved, nearly two years now, Peiper has by no means worked miracles, but he has, already implemented a number of small, revisions that will put the team in a strong position going forward.

They are...

1. Culture shift
Under Peiper the team has moved away from a 'Galacticos' approach, reliant on marquee riders, and shifted focus to a holistic strategy that has rebalanced an otherwise top-heavy team. The retirement of Thor Hushovd and the departure of Alessandro Ballan have opened up breathing room at the top of the team hierarchy for new riders to enter, and given young and developing riders chance to fill the gap. There have been a lot of tough, frank conversations, but they've been sorely needed to circuit break the team's rut.

Much of the real culture change Peiper wants to instill has been hamstrung by long term contracts of staff and riders but as those expire, this year and next, expect more changes to reflect Peiper's strategic vision going forward.

2. Bringing in the right people
One thing Peiper prides himself above all is getting the best out of others. He has faith that if he has the best people to do the job, and they're galvanised by the same vision, the rest will take care of itself. Peiper, along with Jim Ochowicz, was quick to hire Bobby Julich in mid-2013, initially part-time, then full time after Lelangue's departure, a decision that will be increasingly fruitful the longer he's with the team. Julich, by all accounts, was integral to Team Sky's high performance program before he left in 2012, an eye for detail, and a knowledge of the sport second to none, he's a world class coach, and the type BMC should have in its arsenal.

Then there was the addition of Valerio Piva, from Katusha. Piva is an experienced, and hard working director who is more than capable of the job he's been tasked, BMC's lead sport's director. But the importance of the appointment is more in what it allows Peiper; freedom to focus on the bigger picture. His predecessor, Lelangue, wanted to be involved in everything; often in the team car for two-thirds of the year. By contrast, Peiper is more than happy to be hands off and direct his attentions where they're needed.

3. Rider recruitment
Peter Stetina, Darwin Atapuma, Ben Hermans and Peter Velits all came via Peiper last year. A trend of talent still maturing which he hopes to encourage and develop further but who can all also do a job immediately for the team. Testament to his faith, Atapuma, Stetina, and Velits were drafted directly into the 2014 Tour de France squad around a new leader for the Tour, in Tejay van Garderen. Pressing perhaps, is the recruitment of a good sprinter, but it's only August and there's time yet for big announcements.

As interesting, has been who's been left in the cold. BMC stalwart Steve Morabito, Martin Kohler, and Sebastian Lander are all reportedly out, signalling Peiper's intent on building his own team, and that he's quite content to move people on that don't fit his mould. Nor has he forgotten about development. The arrivals of Rick Zabel, Rohan Dennis, Damiano Caruso, but to name a few, show Peiper is looking to 2016 and beyond as much as he is to the next 12 months.

4. Streamlining goals
It's harder to see on the surface, but the undercurrent of BMC's 2014 has been a far more strategic approach to the season as a whole. Peiper has been careful to split his troops up to conquer different goals across the calendar year; something he expects will keep his riders happier, and have them achieve better results in more races. With that in mind, Evans and van Garderen were both given specific stage race squads to build and develop around them. Both were kept apart where possible.

For the first time in a long time Philippe Gilbert was kept away from the cobbled classics to better prepare himself for the Ardennes. Van Avermaet was geared toward Flanders. The approach wasn't totally successful, but it did have promise. Evans went deep into the Giro high up in the overall, even wearing pink for several days. Gilbert rediscovered some of his old-self in the Ardennes, and van Garderen, despite losing two minutes in innocuous circumstance on the stage to Nancy, still finished fifth overall at the Tour.


I should emphasise that it's only been 12 months. You can't change the world that quick, you most certainly cannot change a cycling team. Some progress has been made, some hasn't. The yardstick for success will be equalling, maybe even eclipsing what Dave Brailsford has done at Sky, at BMC. There's no reason that can't be done if Peiper can guide the team the way he'd like to.

What he oversaw at Highroad was incomplete, the team finished, abruptly. What he helped deliver at Garmin-Sharp, a Giro d'Italia victory with Ryder Hesjedal, and the development of many of its best talents, was left underdone because it was happening too slow for his liking. BMC offers a canvas with the resource he needs to properly explore and deliver his vision to the world. Now, all he needs is time.