Tour de France Interview Series: General Manager Jim Ochowicz
Two-time Olympian and General Manager of the BMC Racing Team, Jim Ochowicz has been involved in cycling for almost half a century. We caught up with him before the second rest day of this year’s Tour de France to find out more about his passion for cycling and his role with the team.
- Name: Jim Ochowicz
- Tour de France No: 17
- Years with the BMC Racing Team: since 2009
- Nationality: American
What has been your favourite Tour de France to date and why?
Easy question! The 2011 Tour de France, when Cadel Evans won. It can’t get any better than that.
What, in your opinion was the key to that success?
I think Cadel Evans’ perseverance and also the strength of the team, with the leadership of George Hincapie, who kept people in check and the team focused and motivated. Cadel concentrated more on his role and George kept the team active around him. The Cadel and George combo was what made that Tour de France successful for us.
What has been your worst day on the Tour de France for you?
When Fabio Casartelli died in the 1995 Tour de France - almost 20 years ago to this day. We still keep the memory of him alive. The first thing that came to mind when that tragedy happened, was his family. We were so concerned how his wife and parents would react and how we could help them. It was more about them and not about us.
Has this experience affected your role as manager?
Not really. I am proud of the way we handled the situation on that day and the subsequent 20 years with his family and his son, who had just been born weeks earlier. Sadly, I don’t think there was any way to prevent that accident so I don’t have any regrets. The Tour de France is a bike race after all and you can’t control things like that. It was a crash like any other, except there was a tragic fatality. But this year, I was really excited to see the monument erected in his honor on this Tour - it was emotional to see that.
What is your role as a general manager?
By the time the Tour de France comes around, most of the planning and administrative stuff has taken place, so when we are actually on the Tour the day-to-day stuff takes over. My job is to keep the team going in the right direction and make sure that the staff and the riders are moving forwards and not backwards. I see and feel things that others often don’t. That comes from being here so many times. I recognize when the team is focused and has some energy. Doing a three-week race demands a lot of focus and energy. So trying to keep that alive within a group of 30 people is a challenge. This is essentially, my job.
Do you influence the sport directors during the race?
I let them manage the active race from start to the finish each day, and if I feel something is not moving in the right direction post-race I will debrief with one or more of them to give some feedback and input. They are in the moment each day driving the car. Sometimes I can see more on television then they can see in the team car. So giving them feedback is helpful. I don’t want to dictate the racing tactics, but I think that so far, we have been doing really well. We are on track to meet them all.
What keeps you motivated to be still involved in cycling already for such a long time?
Two primary goals keep me going the most; the first one is I really like to work with athletes. I am not the trainer. I am not the coach. But I am the guy who hires and fires the riders. I know the riders really well. As a boss, I enjoy the role I play with the riders and I think they respect what I do. I also think that as long as I am respected by the riders, I feel like I am doing a good job. The second part is; I have an extremely motivated partner with Andy Rihs. I don’t think I could do this without him. I think this partnership gives me the daily incentive to keep doing this. I can say, without a doubt, that we’ve got the best equipment of all teams in the Tour de France. I can say this with a lot of confidence, because I know that other teams and managers are a little envious of what we have. In terms of bicycles and components materials to keep us in a full season of racing from January to October - We have it all.