Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will both line out for BMC Racing Team at the Volta ao Algarve, which gets underway on Wednesday. The five-day race will be Van Garderen’s first appearance of the 2018 season, while Porte is participating in his second stage race of the campaign after placing second overall at last month’s Tour Down Under.
Porte was the overall winner at the Volta ao Algarve in 2012, but has not competed in the Portuguese event since he finished fourth overall in his final season at Team Sky in 2015. He won the summit finish at the Alto do Malhao in both 2012 and 2015, and will look to test himself on the climb again when it features on the final stage of this year’s race.
“I'm looking forward to getting back to racing and lining up with the team in Portugal. It's still really early in the season and as this is my first race in Europe this year, I'm not going in with any huge expectations,” Porte said in a statement released by the team. “My main goal is to get some good race days in my legs and having come from a very hot Australian summer, adjust to racing in the cooler weather again. We have a strong team and different cards to play on the various stages.”
Van Garderen is set to be deployed in a different role in Grand Tours by BMC in 2018, and rather than chase his own GC ambitions, he will line out at the Tour de France as Porte’s chief lieutenant in the high mountains.
BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz said during the winter that he believed van Garderen would win the general classification at a WorldTour stage race before the 2018 Tour, but the rider himself noted that he start out playing a supporting role at the category 2.1 Volta ao Algarve. Van Garderen finished second overall behind Tony Martin in the race in 2011.
“This winter has been really great preparation wise. I feel like all the boxes have been ticked, and I'm super motivated to start the season strong,” Van Garderen said. “Richie will be the leader going into the race, but if we are on good form it'll be a lot of fun playing off one another. I've raced this race five times in the past, finishing on the podium once in 2011, so I know what to expect.”
BMC Racing Team directeur sportif Fabio Baldato said that the Volta ao Algarve would be crucial preparation for the stage races to come in March. Van Garderen is set to lead BMC’s challenge at Paris-Nice, while Porte has tweaked his usual programme for 2018 and will instead line up at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“This will be Richie's first race back after the Australian season and Tejay is coming in from a solid block at altitude. Both riders will be lining up motivated but given their big goals in the spring are Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice, this is the perfect race to use as preparation and to test their condition," Baldato said.
Porte and Van Garderen will be joined in the BMC line-up by Stefan Küng, Loic Vliegen, and Dylan Teuns, as well as new signings Simon Gerrans and Jürgen Roelandts. Küng will hope to shine in the 20km time trial in Lagoa on stage 3.
"It is a really demanding race with two summit finishes and a fast, rolling time trial,” Baldato said. “While Richie and Tejay will want to produce a good time trial, we also have Stefan Küng who showed he is great shape at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last week."
BMC Racing Team for Volta ao Algarve (February 14-18): Simon Gerrans (Aus), Stefan Küng (Swi), Richie Porte (Aus), Jürgen Roelandts (Bel), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).