Boonen to BMC? Don’t Be Surprised

Photo by Luc Claessen, ISPA Photo


While everyone’s talking about the pending divorce of Omega Pharma-Lotto, little has been said about the fact that Mr. Tom Boonen’s contract with Quick-Step expires at the end of the 2011 season. Boonen recently announced that he would be riding the Tour and the Vuelta in preparation for a world championship course that suits him immensely. After all, a new rainbow jersey would certainly enhance the fading Belgian star’s marketability or possibly entice a new team to pull the trigger sooner, hoping to get a deal on a rider that might soon become World Champion.

But who might that team be?  While the door has presumably been left open for the Belgian to return to Quick-Step, I have a hunch that Boonen will end-up at BMC next season. Here’s why:

1. There’s a vacancy. With the latest round of announcements regarding the Mantova doping ring, Alessandro Ballan is likely headed for a quick exit. 2012 will also be George Hincapie’s final season—possibly just the first half of it—freeing up even more cash for a rider that can command a high salary.

2. BMC has been in the market for a proven classics star since the end of 2010. The squad was one of the teams rumored to have been courting Fabian Cancellara and they’ve also been mentioned as having interest in Philippe Gilbert (although who wouldn’t). Clearly, the money and desire are there. And while Gilbert is the ultimate prize of what could be an interesting market for classic’s stars, Boonen’s worst cobbled campaign is still far better than those of only a handful of riders, making him a more than worthy consolation.

3. The presence of Boonen at BMC would enhance George Hincapie’s chance to win Roubaix in his final try. To anyone watching this year’s race (and maybe the last two or three editions) it’s clear that the window has closed for George to win as a protected team captain. With Boonen garnering most of the competition’s attention, Hincapie could certainly profit from playing the role of a talented, super-domestique—one similar to that played by Johan Vansummeren this year. (And an oft-common Roubaix-winning scenario.)

4. Jim Ochowicz is just “old school” enough not to be worried by Boonen’s antics. It would take more than a little nose candy to scare away a man who’s been around the block as much as Ochowicz has. Cynical yes, but worth mention nonetheless.

5. BMC appears adept at offering new chances to riders seemingly at crossroads in their careers. Before his world title and subsequent move to BMC, Cadel Evans looked to be a rider who just couldn’t get it together to win a big race. Since moving to BMC though, one could argue the past two years have been the best of the Aussie’s career. (Greg Van Avermaet appears headed down a similar path.) After nine years with Patrick Lefevere and Quick-Step, Boonen—who is only 31 next season—would benefit from a change as well.

6. Lastly, Boonen’s presence would offer Taylor Phinney a chance to develop relatively free from pressure while perhaps offering a bit of (I say this with a hint of hesitation) “knowledge” and “expertise” to the young American. At times, Boonen has seemed a bit bored with cycling, perhaps the product of so much success so early in his career. Maybe playing the role of mentor might breathe new life into his career, while offering him a bit of motivation lest he be usurped by his young protégée.

So there you have it—six reasons why I would not be surprised to see Tommeke wearing red and black in 2012. One final disclaimer: this is speculation, not rumor-mongering. I have no inside knowledge to support my claims, just some insights and observations that lead me to believe this is one possible outcome of what is certain to be an exciting transfer period.

Share your comments below.


About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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11 Responses to Boonen to BMC? Don’t Be Surprised

  1. Flahute says:

    I ride a BMC, and I approve this message.

  2. Russ R says:

    Does this mean I'll have to trade in my Quick-Step kit for BMC?
    Seriously, though- those are some excellent points you bring up, Whit. "Tommeke", while not floundering, has certainly had a couple of lackluster seasons lately, usually because of crash-related injuries.
    While I'd love to see Boonen remain on a Belgian team, I'd be happy to root for him and Hincapie (together again!) on BMC.
    And this would leave the door open for Gilbert to join Quick-Step. Might be a win-win…?

  3. RaphBxl says:

    I like speculating about transfers as much as the next guy, but I am a bit confused by the very early start of the discussions on the transfer season. We are just in the beginning of the racing season!

    Otherwise, some good points you make. But if BMC snatches Boonen, who is going to be the star of the all-belgian Lotto-Adecco-Belgacom team?

    • Mattio says:

      just in the beginning? well, we're just getting into Grand Tour season, but most of Europe's major one-day races have already been contested.

      • RaphBxl says:

        Well, it is true that we are half way through the world tour calendar. But there are over five months left until the Giro di Lombardia, and we have just had two months of racing.

        • Mattio says:

          It's true – in the context of the rest of the season, it seems premature. but for a Classics specialist, most of the season is over with only "redemption opportunities" left.

          • Julius says:

            Boonen is the only rider who can win Gent-Wevelgem, and still be considered to have completely bombed his season.

  4. Richard says:


    Interesting speculation, he may like a new team to revitalize himself just like Evans. Change is good. Perhaps he can win BIG, again.
    But, who would be leader of the new Lotto team? They would love to hang on to him!

  5. Veloday says:

    A very plausible scenario, but does anyone think Quickstep will let him go? If he does, wouldn't he proposed new Belgium team want to pick him up to have a dynamic duo with Gilbert?

    • Julius says:

      Veloday, they may have to. The main sponsor's contract is ending at the end of this year. Lefevere already sold a big chunk (80%) of the team management company to Zdenek Bakalaa. With his recent results, Chavanel will want a bigger salary and/or more support for himself.

      My guess is either Lotto will sponsor them, or they will merge with OmegaPharma. Lotto publicly stated that they want a more Belgium-oriented team even if the current OmegaPharma-Lotto is almost all Belgian. So if this reason were true, they aren't likely to combine forces with QSI at its current incarnation. Or, they'll have to let Chavanel go.

      Ah, the Great Belgian Musical Chairs.

  6. adam says:

    Whit, how will the transfer negotiations for Boonen likely play out? Will he try and sign a deal just after the Tour and before the Worlds with managers being lured by the odds of his winning the Worlds and tehrefore and inflated salary (strong team, suitable course), or will he sign low and write in large bonus potential deals?
    I remember Lefevre complaining about Mick Rogers once that cycling is strange; in young riders (Rogers in his QS days) they're paid based on their potential, where old riders were paid on their past results. Boonene is kind of in both camps.

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