The BMC Racing Team was the first to hold its pre-Tour de France press conference on Friday morning, before heading out for a final training ride on the country roads of the La Manche region for a final taste of the racing conditions. The skies are still grey over northern France with the riders concerned about possible rain and cross winds as they race along the coast and the country lanes.
BMC is one of the so-called super teams of the WorldTour and has serious overall classification goals with Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte. The two sat side-by-side at the press conference, along with the rest of the team and manager Jim Ochowicz.
Also in the solid squad are the USA’s Brent Bookwalter, Marcus Burghardt, Damiano Caruso, Rohan Dennis, Amaël Moinard, Michael Schar and Alessandro De Marchi. All strong, experienced riders for the three weeks ahead. Four of the riders were in the BMC team that won the Tour de France with Cadel Evans in 2011. Greg van Avermaet is also in the nine-rider squad and will be a protected rider in the opening stages as he clashes with Peter Sagan and targets victory in the sprints and even the yellow jersey.
Due to his top-five placing in the 2012 and 2014 Tours de France, Van Garderen arguably has a stronger claim to team leadership than Porte, but was forced to quit last year due to sudden illness in the final week. The racing and their performances will decide who will emerge as the team leader, with their rivalry perhaps kept under check but still burning away in the background.
“This is our seventh Tour de France as BMC and we hope it’ll be a successful one. We’ve brought together nine different talented riders to create a well-rounded team for every stage of the race. We’ll be fighting and competing with other teams and our primary goal is to win the Tour de France,” Ochowicz said in an opening statement.
“We’ll be considering all the stages for all of the three weeks; here in Normandy, the Pyrenees, the time trials and the Ventoux finish, the Berne finish in Switzerland and the Alps. I wish the team best of luck and look forward to a great competition.”
Van Garderen was first to take questions and one of the first was if he had learnt any lessons from last year.
“Well, carry this thing around,” he said showing a hand sanitizer.
“Every bike race we do there are lessons to learn. You never stop til you retire, even as a DS you learn. A lot of it simple things - sleeping, healing, recovery, staying warm or cool, keeping stress low and ticking the basics. There are no real earth shattering things.
"The lead-up to the Tour is a little different with the Tour de Suisse compared to the [Critérium du] Dauphiné. It’s not a huge difference but when you do the Dauphiné you then recover, do two training blocks and so add a bit more fitness. With Suisse the bulk of the work is done and then you race and recover for the Tour de France. Even if the race [Suisse] is closer, I feel fresher because I’ve been focusing on recovery.”
Porte relishing leadership role
Porte seems to be relishing finally having a leadership role in the Tour de France after several years of dedicated work as Chris Froome’s wingman at Team Sky. He occasionally bristled to blunt questions while at Team Sky but seems happy to be with BMC at this year’s Tour de France.
“It was nice the team allowed me to gradually build up my season and be good in July. I came into the Tour last year running on fumes because I peaked in the Giro and came to the Tour as a back up rider. This is a massive opportunity for me to lead with TJ what is a fantastic team,” Porte said, perfectly on message.
“TJ and I haven’t raced a lot together and we’ve perhaps raced more in training. We raced together at the Volta a Catalunya and on the queen stage we attacked the other favourites, and that’s how we’re going to ride here. It’ll be brilliant.”
Porte was happier to talk about riding with Van Garderen than his relationship with former teammate Froome. The two are still friends off the bike but their rivalry looks set to emerge during the next three weeks.
“Off the bike we're still friends but on the bike we're rivals. There’s no difference between him or Quintana - you still want to beat them,” Porte said, pointing out he will not get obsessed about Froome.
“It gets silly if you get caught up on how Froome rides. There are 197 other riders in the race. We’re going to focus on this team and the race. I don’t expect any favours of these guys and neither do they from me. It’s a bike race.”