Evans' Move May Cost Him Tour de France Invite
Cadel Evans' move to join former world champion Alessandro Ballan and ex-Armstrong lieutenant George Hincapie at BMC Racing may represent an upgrade over his underachieving Silence-Lotto squad, but it may also leave the Australian watching the Tour de France from home.
Cadel Evans abandoned Silence-Lotto to join BMC Racing Team in a bid to strengthen his claim for a maiden Tour de France victory, but the wheels could fall off the twice runner-up's challenge before the race even starts.
Although the Australian world road race champion joined a group of experienced and talented riders, the American team's participation in the 2010 Tour de France remains uncertain.
BMC are a Continental team (second division) while elite ProTour outfits are race organizer ASO's top priorities when they draw their list of invitees for the Tour.
However, BMC hope the signing of Evans to a three-year contract, former world champion Alessandro Ballan and former Lance Armstrong lieutenant George Hincapie will be enough to prompt ASO to invite them.
"We have a plan to go to the biggest races, including the Grand Tours. That includes the Tour de France. This will be possible since our sporting level has greatly improved in standard," BMC manager John Lelangue told reporters.
Sixteen teams are already contracted to participate in next year's tour, while 20 usually start with a further two allowed if the maximum number is reached.
Four teams - Team Sky, Lance Armstrong's Team RadioShack, Team Garmin-Slipstream and Team Katusha - will be at the prologue in Rotterdam next July thanks to their ProTour status and because they have already proven they can compete in a three-week event.
Cervelo TestTeam, former champion Carlos Sastre and green jersey winner Thor Hushovd's team is almost certain to take part, leaving one guaranteed spot up for grabs with three teams vying for it.
BMC are candidates, along with French outfit Saur Sojasun and Dutch team Vacansoleil and although the American team boast two world champions in their ranks, manager John Lelangue's patchy history with Tour organizers could play against them.
Belgian Lelangue was Phonak team manager when Floyd Landis won the Tour in 2006, only for the American to test positive for testosterone and lose his title.
Phonak was disbanded before resurfacing in 2007 as BMC, with the same owner, Andy Rihs, and Lelangue back at the helm.
Evans, however, is unconcerned by the past events and insists he is looking forward rather than back.
"Rihs comes back with another team and another project with the same goal after that experience shows his enthusiasm and passion for the sport," Evans commented.
"He also comes back very carefully and guarded."
ASO are expected to announce the list of teams taking part in March.