Supporting Porte: Analysing BMC Racing's team for the Tour de France

BMC Racing Team is taking no chances on their squad of seven riders to support their Australian leader Richie Porte, one of the main contenders to unseat Team Sky and Chris Froome at the Tour de France. Much like Movistar, the team in red has assembled a group of experienced riders and loyal domestiques and in-form riders to support Porte.

While the team may have opportunities for an odd stage win if Porte's GC ambitions either soar or come crashing down, the selections are very much geared toward an 'all for one, one for all' team strategy – more along the lines of Team Sky's style than Movistar's three-pronged approach.

All of the riders who made the team skipped the Giro d'Italia, despite there being an extra week between the two Grand Tours this year. BMC have opted for maximum freshness in the team as well as proven abilities in races against the clock and in loyalty to Porte.

The only questionable choice from a form standpoint is Simon Gerrans, who has shown little of the spark that propelled him to the Milan-San Remo victory in 2012. At 38, he's the oldest on the team, but he's a good friend to Porte, an experienced Classics man who can protect his team leader in crosswinds and on the cobbles, and Gerrans held his own in the squad's victorious effort in the Tour de Suisse TTT, only dropping off in the finale.

Stefan Küng, the youngest member of the Tour squad, led the team across the line to win that Tour de Suisse TTT, and he will be an important motor in the Tour's stage 3 team time trial, as will Kiwi Paddy Bevin, a former New Zealand national champion in the discipline who proved himself in the Tirreno-Adriatico TTT and also at the more recent Critérium du Dauphiné.

For the mountains, Porte's climbing domestiques aren't quite up to the level of Movistar's or Team Sky's, but Damiano Caruso – second overall in Tirreno, and with a top 10 overall in two Grand Tours and 11th at last year's Tour after Porte crashed out – is more than capable, as is Tejay van Garderen. Michael Schär is a selfless worker who has slayed himself for the team over the last seven Tours de France, and even Van Avermaet showed his abilities in the mountains in the Tour de Suisse when he helped keep Nairo Quintana in check on the stage to Arosa.

The eight-rider team unfortunately leaves off much of BMC's wealth of talent who absolutely deserved a spot. Outside of those who raced the Giro d'Italia, USA time trial champion Joey Rosskopf, Dylan Teuns, Brent Bookwalter, Danilo Wyss and Tom Bohli have all shown solid form and will be devastated to have missed a spot.

BMC Racing Team's Tour de France squad

Name: Richie Porte
Position: GC leader
Nationality: Australia
Age: 33
Experience: 11 Grand Tours raced, 5th overall in the 2016 Tour de France

The 2018 Tour de France will be Porte's 12th Grand Tour, and he has reached what should be the prime age for Tour success. He's spent enough time as a leader to gain a level of consistency and confidence – in particular from the 2016 Tour de France where, aside from the time trials, he was mostly able to match Chris Froome blow for blow.

Porte has had some terrible luck that has masked his potential. In 2016 a late puncture on a sprint stage cost him 1:45 and probably a podium position, and he ended up finishing fifth overall, 1:12 off second place. Last year, a devastating crash on stage 9 to Chambery left him with a broken pelvis and collarbone, and his race was over.

Now, with a solid, steady build-up to the Tour de France and a hard-fought victory in the Tour de Suisse under his belt this season, Porte seems primed for a spirited battle with Froome, as long as his fortunes hold out.

Name: Patrick Bevin
Position: Domestique
Nationality: New Zealand
Age: 27
Experience: Two Grand Tours, finished last year's Tour de France

Patrick 'Paddy' Bevin jumped to BMC from Cannondale-Drapac during that team's period of uncertainty last year, and has found a fertile environment in his new squad. At Tirreno-Adriatico, he helped lead the team to victory in the opening team time trial in Lido di Camaiore. He then sprinted to fifth behind Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan on the next stage to move into the leader's jersey for a day before getting back to working for his team leaders.

Bevin's strength will be important, of course, in the TTT, but also in the chaotic first week.

Name: Damiano Caruso
Position: Super domestique
Nationality: Italy
Age: 30
Experience: Nine Grand Tour starts, two top-10s overall on GC

On any lesser team, Damiano Caruso could be an outright leader, getting full protection before being unleashed on a final climb. But at BMC, Caruso is the most low-key of 'super domestiques'. The fact that Caruso has won only a single individual race in his career is a testament to his selflessness. He's rarely been designated as the sole team leader, but got his chance in Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished second overall just 24 seconds behind Michal Kwiatkowski, and at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he put up a good fight, getting as high up as second overall until an attack-strewn finale to La Rosière on stage 6 knocked him down to fifth.

Caruso is on the level of a rider like Dan Martin but gets far less attention from the English-speaking media, but he's always there on the fringes, just outside the frame. Calm and confident, if Porte should suffer misfortune, it will likely be Caruso who will hold the team's hopes for the overall.

Name: Simon Gerrans
Position: Domestique
Nationality: Australia
Age: 38
Experience: 18 Grand Tours

Simon Gerrans is in the twilight of his career – one that included victories in Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in addition to four Grand Tour stage wins. But Gerrans' days on the podium this year have been restricted to a single day after BMC won the TTT at the Tour de Suisse. Last year's second place overall at the Tour of Norway wasn't enough to convince Orica to keep him on, and Gerrans found a place with his mate Porte at BMC this season.

With the squad's uncertain future, this could well be Gerrans' last Tour de France, and he will be emptying the tanks for Porte. Gerrans knows how to bury himself, which will come in handy for the TTT, and, although he wasn't a cobbled Classics expert, he will be one of the key riders protecting Porte on the nervous flat stages in the first week and in the cobbled stage to Roubaix.

Name: Stefan Küng
Position: Domestique
Nationality: Switzerland
Age: 24
Experience: Three Grand Tour starts, finished the 2017 Tour de France and 2016 Giro d'Italia

Küng is young, but over his three-and-a-half seasons with BMC he's been a proven performer, especially in the team time trial. The Swiss champion earned his spot in the team with the Tour de Suisse TTT victory, after which he led the race for four stages, and the stage 9 individual time trial victory.

He was part of all three of the squad's TTT wins this year – in the Volta Valenciana, Tirreno-Adriatico and Switzerland, and its 2015 world title in the discipline. With two Grand Tour finishes under his belt, Küng has the base of fitness and experience to be a capable domestique for Porte and an important motor for stage 3.

Name: Michael Schär
Position: Domestique
Nationality: Switzerland
Age: 31
Experience: Nine Grand Tours, seven Tours de France

Michael Schär is as loyal as domestiques come: the kind of rider you can put on the front and who will be happy to ride in the wind all day. Aside from a national road race title in 2013, the 31-year-old's only other win came at the 2014 Tour of Utah when he rode his breakaway companions off his wheel and soloed in for victory.

Like Küng, Schär was on BMC's winning TTT squads at Valencia, Tirreno and the Tour de Suisse, but equally important is the Swiss rider's long history of service to the team. He joined in 2010 when the team was still Pro Continental, and only Bookwalter has been with the organisation longer. Schär has supported team leaders in nine Grand Tours and 32 Classics, including nine editions of Paris-Roubaix. His knowledge of the cobbles will be important for stage 9.

Name: Greg Van Avermaet
Position: Sprinter, domestique
Nationality: Belgium
Age: 33
Experience: Eight Grand Tours, two Tour de France stage wins

Greg Van Avermaet is just the kind of rider a team needs on any Grand Tour squad. Able to win stages in short, punchy finishes and flat sprints on the right day, but humble enough to perform whatever duty is required of him from the team leader – he's an all-around rouleur and hard man who has the respect of the entire peloton.

Of course, Van Avermaet is an obvious choice for selection to the BMC Tour de France squad considering his palmarès in Paris-Roubaix, but floating over the pavé is not the only thing the Belgian is adept at. The Olympic Games road race victory showed that Van Avermaet is no slouch at getting over tough climbs, and if there was ever any doubt about his abilities in the high mountains, his performance in the Tour de Suisse stage 6 – where he flat-out sprinted into the start of the steep climb to Arosa to keep Porte in contention – laid them to rest.

Van Avermaet's pull not only halved the gap to the attacking Nairo Quintana (if the GPS is to be believed), it also distanced some of Porte's rivals, allowing him to keep his overall lead and eventually win the race. There aren't enough superlatives to describe that Herculean effort.

Name: Tejay van Garderen
Position: Super domestique
Nationality: USA
Age: 29
Experience: 11 Grand Tours, two top-5 finishes overall in the Tour de France

At one point in time, Tejay van Garderen was the next Lance Armstrong. He'd been best young rider in numerous races, including the Tour de France and Paris-Nice in 2012, he'd won some one-week stage races and finished fifth in the Tour de France twice. But something happened in 2015: he was third overall at the Tour in the third week when suddenly he dropped out of the race.

Since that devastating moment, van Garderen has not been the Grand Tour contender he once was. In 2015, Porte joined the squad and the American lost the chance to lead at the Tour de France. After solid but not earth-shattering rides at the 2017 Giro d'Italia (20th) and Vuelta a Espana (10th), van Garderen has accepted the job of super domestique for Porte in this year's Tour de France.

A strong ride to third in the Tour de Suisse ITT, and a stage win, and second overall in a last-minute ride at Tour of California showed that van Garderen still has what it takes at the top of the sport. Perhaps helping Porte to an overall victory will be the boost that van Garderen needs to regain his Grand Tour contender confidence, or maybe he will find satisfaction in a supporting role. He certainly has plenty to be proud of in his career, whichever path awaits him.

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