Richie Porte gives BMC until May to save team

Tour de France contender still hopes squad can continue

Richie Porte has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he has given BMC Racing until May 1 to find a new sponsor, at which point he will be free to find another team for 2019.

As he prepares to make his European debut at the Volta ao Algarve, the Australian disclosed that he has a clause within his contract that allows him to speak to rival teams at that point, although he is still hopeful that BMC will continue beyond the current year, calling it the 'best case scenario'. 

BMC have no sponsorship agreements in place for 2019, and their entire rider roster and staff are without contracts for next season. The future of the team rests on a new sponsor being found or one of the main existing titles of BMC, Tag Heuer or Sophos stepping up and providing the needed financial support. At this point, BMC owner Andy Rihs has not decided to guarantee his continued support. Under UCI regulations riders may not officially sign contracts with a new team until August 1.

"My line in the sand is the end of May," Porte told Cyclingnews in an exclusive podcast interview set to be released later this week.

"That's when you need to know. Who is to say that maybe Geraint Thomas goes to Trek because there goes a potentially great team, if BMC was to fold, that you would have loved to have ridden for. The market is pretty hot and we'll see who is in and out of contract. A best-case scenario is that Jim Ochowicz finds another sponsor and the team keeps going."

Porte confirmed that he can begin looking for another team in the coming months, although when asked about the timing for the second time he said, "It's in my contract. There is a cut-off point at the start of May."

The Australian added that remaining at BMC beyond 2018 would be his preferred choice, having moved to the team in order to lead their Grand Tour challenge back in 2016. He has become one of the best weeklong stage racers in the world, and despite crashing out of last year's Tour de France, remains a genuine contender for the yellow jersey this summer.

Porte believes that the uncertainty over his and the team's future can be harnessed in a positive way, adding extra motivation towards his main aims for the season.

"To be honest it's more of a motivation. At the end of the day, even if this team doesn't go ahead next year I'm pretty sure that I will have somewhere. It's not ideal but we've got good sponsors like Tag Heuer, BMC obviously, and even Sophos who have just come in. Hopefully, between one of those, someone will step up but I think that Andy Rihs has done so much for this team, and this sport; it would be a shame to see BMC finish. I think that next year we'll still have a team."

Back to Europe and a different race programme

Porte arrives in Algarve after a stint of racing in Australia. The 33-year-old won a stage and finished second overall at the Tour Down Under and January and is making his first appearance at the Vuelta ao Algarve in several years. A former winner of the race, he is not aiming for the GC this time around, with Tejay van Garderen the designated leader of BMC for the coming week.

"I've not done this race in three years now. I wanted to do this race in Europe before doing Tirreno-Adriatico. The basis for changing the programme is down to my wife expecting a baby in May. Also, I wanted to do something different. I'm more motivated to go to Tirreno than go to Paris-Nice. I've done Tirreno just once and I've never done the Tour de Suisse. It's just more motivating to have different races.

"I've won this race before, in 2012, and won a couple of stages but it's not my big goal now, and with that I mean no disrespect. For me, coming back from Australia and the heat that we had, and then coming to the winter that we've had here, it's bit of a shock to the system. Maybe I'll try for a stage win or have a good time trial but as the team have said, it's a stepping-stone in the process of getting to July. It's a race where I can help Tejay, or maybe win a stage, but I'm not here for the overall."

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