As Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France on stage 9 for the second year in a row, his – and his BMC team's – thoughts immediately turned to recovering in order to race the Vuelta a España, as well as to mount a serious bid on winning the rainbow jersey at the world championship road race in Innsbruck, Austria, on September 30.
Becoming world champion might arguably be a longer-lasting legacy for the Australian than winning the Vuelta, but both are certainly within the 33-year-old's grasp. Crashing out of the Tour early, while hugely distressing for Porte, his team and his legions of fans, might prove to be a blessing in disguise if he can finish the season as either Vuelta or world champion.
Of course, the small cloud over it all is that Porte is about to leave BMC Racing after three seasons with the squad, which metamorphoses into a CCC-sponsored set-up for 2019.
Porte will purportedly head to Trek-Segafredo, although no official announcement had yet been made just two days before the start of the Vuelta.
Another rider in the eight-man squad whose days with BMC are about to be up is time trial specialist and future Grand Tour hopeful Rohan Dennis, who will move to Bahrain-Merida next year. Ditto Belgian all-rounder Dylan Teuns, who follows Dennis to the Bahrain-backed team for 2019.
Both riders will look to support Porte in his quest to take the Vuelta crown, but both Dennis and Teuns will have the opportunity to nab stage wins along the way, in the two time trials and on hillier stages, respectively.
Alessandro De Marchi, meanwhile, will be an invaluable source of assistance for Porte. When not guiding the Australian, the Italian will be looking to add a third Vuelta stage victory to his palmarès in 2018, and will likely be given a long lead, being as he is in BMC's good books for having signed on to stay with the outfit in its CCC-sponsored guise for the next two seasons.
BMC Racing's Vuelta a España team
Name: Richie Porte
Position: Team leader
Experience: This will be the Australian's 13th Grand Tour, although only his second Vuelta, having last ridden the event back in 2012, when he rode for Sky team leader Chris Froome
Porte has what is arguably his best chance yet to win a Grand Tour, arriving at the Vuelta 'fresh' from having recovered from crashing out of the Tour de France at the end of the first week. He has little experience of riding the Vuelta, having taken part just once – compared with eight Tours de France – but the tough climbing stages will suit him down to the ground, and if he's recovered fully from his injuries, Porte has to be considered a favourite for a podium place, if not his first Grand Tour win.
Name: Rohan Dennis
Position: Time-trial specialist
Experience: Has started seven Grand Tours, but finished only three of them, with a best-placed finish of 16th overall at this year's Giro d'Italia. However, Dennis has a long-term plan to one day be a Grand Tour GC contender
Dennis has to be considered the favourite to take the first red leader's jersey at the 2018 Vuelta at the conclusion of the race's 8km opening stage in Malaga, run as an individual time trial. Despite the Australian's desire to change from reliable time triallist to slimmed-down possible Grand Tour winner, the 28-year-old still has what it takes against the clock – the proof being four victories this season, all in time trials, from the Australian national championships to stage 16 of the Giro, via TT wins at the Abu Dhabi Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Dennis has only had eight race days since finishing the Giro, but is now targeting the two TTs at the Vuelta and the world championship time trial title in Austria, before he presumably resumes his aim to improve at Grand Tours with new team Bahrain-Merida next year
Name: Joey Rosskopf
Position: Domestique/TT specialist
Experience: Has ridden, and finished, three Grand Tours: the Giro twice, in 2016 and 2017, and the Vuelta in 2015. Finished fifth in the final time trial at the 2017 Giro
Rosskopf is another rider who has extended his contract with the team in its guise as CCC, or whatever it is to be named. Team manager Jim Ochowicz has described the American as "an incredibly talented rider who often flies under the radar because of his selflessness and professionalism when it comes to supporting his teammates". In other words, the kind of rider you want on your side if you're Richie Porte at the Vuelta, while Rosskopf will get the opportunity to ride for himself during the stage 1 and stage 16 time trials, if he's feeling frisky. This season, after taking his second US national time trial title in Knoxville, Rosskopf went on to finish second to BMC teammate Tejay van Garderen at the Tour of Utah prologue, and will relish riding his second Vuelta.
Name: Nicolas Roche
Position: Domestique de luxe
Experience: Roche's sixth place at the 2010 Vuelta and 5th place at the 2013 edition remain his best finishes at 19 Grand Tours. Had only his first 'DNF' at this year's Giro
If he looks like Stephen Roche, that's because Nicolas is the 1987 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France winner's son. And while he's yet to win a Grand Tour of his own, the younger Roche has been a consistent GC rider and an invaluable domestique over 14 years as a pro, and has two Vuelta stage wins to his name, achieved in 2013 and 2015.
Roche started the 2018 Giro with designs on a top-10 finish, but had to quit the race on stage 15, feeling "empty" – his first time not finishing a Grand Tour in 19 starts. While he'll be helping Porte to win the Vuelta, Roche could creep a top-10 or -15 finish if things go his way. Certainly a stage win is well within the 34-year-old's grasp.
Name: Alessandro De Marchi
Position: Mountain domestique
Experience: Ten out of 10 Grand Tour starts and finishes, with two Vuelta stage wins along the way
The experienced 32-year-old Italian took a memorable solo victory at the 2014 Vuelta while riding for Cannondale, having dropped his three breakaway companions towards the end of the stage, and then made a similar move on the summit finish to Fuente del Chivo in 2015 with BMC, emerging from the mist for his second Vuelta stage win in a row.
De Marchi is a valuable team player, who has been part of BMC's winning team time trial teams at both the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Tour de Suisse this season, which is why he's been retained for next year's CCC-sponsored team. But he also enjoys a good breakaway, so expect him to be on the hunt for a third Vuelta stage win.
Name: Dylan Teuns
Position: Mountain domestique
Experience: With only two Grand Tours ridden and completed – the 2016 Vuelta and the 2017 Giro – Teuns has plenty to learn, but is a very capable GC rider
Teuns really burst onto the scene during the 2017 season, when the Belgian won the overall titles at the Tour de Wallonie, the Tour de Pologne and the Arctic Race of Norway, with stage wins at Wallonie and Pologne, and two stage wins in Norway. While he was unable to defend his title at this year's Pologne, the 26-year-old Belgian did manage to finish fifth overall, having finished second to overall champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) on two stages along the way. He could be coming into form nicely for the third Grand Tour of his career, and is certainly one to watch for the future in three-week races, if he doesn't already break through at this Vuelta. Bahrain-Merida certainly think so, where he's signed up to ride for the next two seasons.
Name: Brent Bookwalter
Position: Mountain domestique
Experience: Eight Grand Tour starts, and eight Grand Tour finishes, including second place in the opening time trial to Bradley Wiggins at the 2010 Giro
The ever-reliable Bookwalter is in his 11th season with BMC, and is the team's longest-serving member, having been with them since 2008. And, rather than slowing down, the 34-year-old American is still showing the younger members of the team the way by being part of the winning team time trial team at this year's Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and finishing third in the US time trial championships in June, before finishing second on the final stage of the recent Tour of Utah to overall winner Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo). BMC team leader Porte knows that in Spain he'll be able to count on Bookwalter, who has eight Grand Tour starts – and finishes – in the bank.
Name: Francisco Ventoso
Experience: Fourteen Grand Tour starts with three stage wins: at the 2006 Vuelta, and at both the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Giro
After six seasons with Movistar, Ventoso switched to BMC for the 2017 season. A prolific winner in his earlier years, with 27 pro wins to his name between 2004 and 2012 – including the 2010 Paris-Brussels – Ventoso has mellowed into more of an all-rounder in recent years, and is as at home helping out in the Grand Tours as he is in the one-day Classics. The 36-year-old will be tasked with doing much of the grunt work on the front of the bunch if Porte finds himself leading the race, and it's always good to have a Spanish rider on your side during the Vuelta, too.
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