Rihs died on Wednesday after enduring a long illness

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BMC Racing‘s main backer and long-time sponsor in cycling, Andy Rihs died Wednesday evening from ongoing health issues. The Swiss businessman was 75 years old.

Rihs’s hearing aid company backed Team Phonak from 2000 to 2006. BMC Racing, promoting his BMC bicycle company, began in 2007 and continues on today.

One of his biggest wins with the team was the Tour de France with Cadel Evans in 2011.

“He has his family, but we are his cycling family,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz told Cycling Weekly.

“It’s difficult. He’s been with this project for 10 years and a friend for 20. It’s not a bit [easy], in the end, it’s always a surprise and a shock to everybody. And at the same time, we are losing our best friend. It’s not easy. It’s going to take a while to recover from this.”

Rihs has been suffering for some time from a blood disorder. His family was at his side in the Susenberg clinic in Zurich on Wednesday evening.

His cycling family now includes star racers Greg Van Avermaet, Richie Porte, Tejay van Garderen, Nicolas Roche and Rohan Dennis.

Rihs celebrates on the Champs Élysées with Cadel Evans in 2011 (Sunada)

“He’s been in the sport, helping tremendously in lending support in many different elements in the sport. Building a velodrome in Grenchen, working with the Swiss cycling federation and helping them survive.

“Helping bike races survive, sponsoring many different events and has always been there to lend a hand. Always someone who was giving and not taking. On many different fronts,” Ochowicz said.

“If you look at the peloton, there are a lot of riders in the peloton who raced for Andy’s teams over the years. And staff who’ve worked on his teams. So it’s a pretty big audience of friends and family who Andy has influenced in the sport of cycling.”

The US WorldTour team said in a statement: “Thanks to the great commitment from Andy, BMC Racing Team has been able to develop so well in both a sporting and economical sense. Andy has served as an inspiration to us all.

“BMC Racing Team extends its sincere condolences to Andy’s family and friends at this time. We will keep Andy in everlasting memory and forever be grateful for his friendship and support.”

The team continues despite the loss in this Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Its sponsorship deal with the Rihs family runs through 2018.

Ochowitz has been looking for sponsors over the last year and has several options ready to continue the team in 2019.