Santa Rosa-based team started just three years ago, now has a chance to race in 2011 Tour de France

  • News/--Scott Nydam of Sebastopol competes in the prologue of the Tour of California in Sacramento, Saturday February 14, 2009. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2009

SACRAMENTO ? Santa Rosa?s Gavin Chilcott, a former professional cyclist, isn?t your average ex-jock.

An alumnus of Santa Rosa High, Chilcott, 46, graduated from Cal, did fellowships at Cal Tech and UC Davis and earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington.

Given his athletic experience and academic resume, it figured Chilcott might have some success when he began a Santa Rosa-based amateur cycling team, BMC, in 2006.

But even Chilcott wasn?t smart enough to envision where BMC, a once-underfunded, unknown team with no support staff, would be just three years later.

?Not in my wildest dreams,? said Chilcott, whose team is competing in the 17-team Tour of California. ?I mean, I made some power-point slides that looked exactly like what we?ve done. But power-point slides are pretty cheap.?

In contrast, BMC, now a 17-rider UCI Professional Continental team with a realistic chance of competing in the 2011 Tour de France, is no longer forced to do things on the cheap. To appreciate BMC?s status as a Pro Continental team, it helps to understand pro cycling?s three-tiered food chain.

The 18-team UCI Pro Tour is the sport?s top level, Pro Continental, comprised of 21 teams, is next, followed by Continental teams.

There are 16 U.S.-based pro cycling teams this year. Thirteen are Continental teams, two are Pro Tour teams and BMC is the lone Pro Continental team. In other words, BMC, which had eight anonymous riders washing their own bikes in 2006, is the third-most developed cycling team in America.

Chilcott said BMC?s operating budget has increased 10-fold since its first year. The team?s 2009 schedule includes races in Belgium, France, Germany, Qatar, Switzerland and Holland and it could possibly compete in Italy, Australia and Asia.

Its full-time staff, which includes three mechanics, three soigneurs, two directors, a technical rider, office manager and a person in charge of public relations, is scattered across the globe, from Portugal to Belgium.

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