Richie Porte will toe the start line at the Tour de Romandie on Tuesday as the defending champion but says he has more modest ambitions this time around. His teammate Tejay van Garderen will join BMC's line-up for the six-day race as the pair continue their preparation for the Tour de France in July.
"I'm not putting too much pressure on myself heading into the Tour de Romandie this year as I don't really know where my form is," Porte said. "However, while I have more modest ambitions this year, it is a race I enjoy so I will be going there ready to give 100%. Overall, I think we have a good group of riders lining up so, I am looking forward to getting started.
Porte and van Garderen already teamed up at the Tour du Finistère on April 14, where the final kilometres of the course will also be used during stage 5 of the Tour de France from Lorient to Quimper. They used the one-day race as an opportunity to preview those kilometres, and important climbs: Côte de la Montagne de Locronan, Notre-Dame de Lorette and Kerlividic before finishing in Quimper, at race pace.
At Tour de Romandie, Porte and van Garderen will be joined by Tom Bohli, Kilian Frankiny, Joey Rosskopf, Danilo Wyss and Rohan Dennis, who will make his final preparations for the Giro d'Italia.
The race starts with a prologue on April 24, followed by two 'classic' stages. There is a 9.9km time trial from Ollon to Villars on stage 3 that could set the tone for the overall classification, followed by the queen stage 4 in Sion that covers five mountain passes. The race will conclude on April 29 in Geneva.
BMC's director Fabio Baldato said he put together a well-rounded team where Porte will be the designated team leader, and van Garderen, too, will be protected for the mountain stage and overall classification.
"We will go into the race with Richie Porte as our leader. Looking at the parcours, I think the time trial will be important and we will see what the situation is when we reach that," he said in a team press release.
"We also have Tejay van Garderen lining up and he is in good shape so we will look to protect him and put him in a good position for the general classification as well. After the TT, there is a really hard stage in the mountains. It's short, but with four tough climbs so we will keep looking at the situation to see what the best plan will be when we get there.
"We have a strong team for this race. First of all, we have three Swiss riders and we know they are always extra motivated when racing at home. Rohan Dennis will make his final preparations for the Giro d'Italia at this race and I'm sure he will want to target the 4km prologue. It's maybe a little bit short but we know that on this kind of effort, he is always one of the strongest in the peloton. I think we have a good team with lots of different options so it will be up to us to make a result."
Last year, Porte had a stronger start to his season before winning the overall title at Tour de Romandie ahead of Simon Yates and Primoz Roglic. His form is a little unknown heading into Tour de Romandie this year.
He started this season placing second overall at the Tour Down Under and then completed at the Volta ao Algarve. He was then sidelined from competing at Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March due to illness, and although he returned to racing at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, using the six-day race to 'test his form', he didn't finish stage 6.
Van Garderen believes his own form is where it needs to be to do well at Tour de Romandie. He was third overall at Volta ao Algarve in February, 17th at Vuelta Ciclista a Catalunya and the placed eighth at Tour du Finistère. He said the Tour de Romandie is an important race for the BMC team, with their ties to Switzerland.
Van Garderen said that the team will also be racing with the late Andy Rihs in mind. The BMC Racing Team owner died from leukaemia last week at the age of 75.
"Being on a team so closely linked to Switzerland means that this race is a big goal for us," van Garderen said. "My form is good, and we are very motivated especially having Richie Porte, the defending champion, on the team. It gives us an extra incentive. The course suits us, and we are ready to fight. We owe it to Andy."
BMC Racing roster for Tour de Romandie: Tom Bohli, Rohan Dennis, Kilian Frankiny, Richie Porte, Joey Rosskopf, Tejay van Garderen, Danilo Wyss
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