BMC Racing’s Andy Rihs is probably the wealthiest man in pro cycling, so much so that he can pay for a cycling team in the way you or I might subscribe to a magazine.
But for all his billions and business sense, he must be finding his expenditure in cycling isn’t bringing the dividends he’d hoped for. They say bad news comes in threes, with both Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio suspended because of links to a Lampre-related doping investigation, the trinity was completed thanks to Thomas Frei’s positive A-sample, for EPO.
Rihs started a hearing aid business which went from family business to a multibillion dollar enterprise. The company, then known as Phonak, backed a pro cycling team with big ambitions but it reached too far and seven riders were caught for doping offences during three years. Rihs then walked away, disgusted. But the businessman also owned a bike brand, BMC, and began to support young Swiss riders. The team stepped up in 2009 to do some bigger races and then Rihs started to flash the cash, the team’s budget went beyond 15 billion Swiss Francs and he hired the likes of Evans, Kroon, Hincapie and Burghart.
But the fizz from the champagne tasted after Evan’s win in the Flèche Wallonne didn’t have time to go flat before news of Thomas Frei’s positive test came out.
You have to feel for Rihs, putting your money in only to see things turn sour. He’d previously said “people have burned their fingers so much that they’ll have learned”, only to find he’s the one nursing burnt digits.
But at the same time, many a clever businessman gets to the top by minimising risks. So I’d ask the following questions:
- Who reviewed Alessandro Ballan’s blood passport data?
- Does the BMC Racing team have a full-time coach or are riders left to themselves?
- Are riders monitored in addition to the passport data, ie internal controlling?
- Do all the support staff have impeccable reputations?
A lesson is that if you are concerned about your image and want to invest in cycling then you need to go about things the right way.