Having two Grand Tour candidates in a single team is a great problem to have and also an advantage, according to BMC Racing’s Jim Ochowicz, who signed Richie Porte to the team’s roster for 2016.
The signing means that for the first time in two seasons BMC will have two potential Grand Tour leaders - the Australian and Tejay van Garderen. Both riders have similar characteristics in that they both time trial well, and can also perform doggedly in the mountains. Van Garderen has cracked the Tour de France top five on two occasions - although he abandoned this year - while Porte has spent his Tour campaigns riding for Chris Froome over the last few seasons.
The Australian has, however, established himself as a serious week-long stage racer and looked on course for a high place overall at the Giro this year until he was struck by injury. Although he has yet to finish in the top five of a Grand Tour, Ochowicz believes that his new recruit gives the squad options in stages races.
One of the main tasks for the team management will be designing and designating race programmes between the two riders. Both may want to ride and lead at the Tour de France - a scenario that failed to yield success for BMC in 2013 when they went into the race with van Garderen and Cadel Evans at the helm – but with the Giro and Tour routes set to be announced this month Ochowicz and his staff will have to define clear paths for both his GC leaders.
“It’s way to early to put that on the plate yet. We’re obviously waiting to see what the courses are like for the Giro, Tour and the Vuelta,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews before the World Championships.
“We’ve heard rumours like everyone else about time trials at the Giro and a few at the Tour but we’re not sure about anything yet. We want to examine those courses first and then we need to have a sit with Richie and Tejay and decide on which direction we’re going to take with each of them based on what they did this year, a little bit, and who did what races.”
One possibly shift could see van Garderen move from Paris-Nice to Tirreno-Adriatico, allowing the team to target two week-long stage races that overlap. After that it’s far from certain as to whether both riders will target the Tour de France or whether one will aim for the Giro before taking up super-domestique duties for the other at the Tour. Until Ochowicz sits down with both riders it’s effectively a guessing game.
“We know that Richie won Paris-Nice and Tejay froze out of it with two days to go before the finish. We don’t know if we want to change that up with maybe Tejay trying something new - I don’t know yet. We’ve talked about it internally and we’ve been kicking all sorts of ideas around but nothing has been firmed up yet."
When asked about how he can balance the expectations of two leaders, Ochowicz said: “It’s a great problem to have.
“We see it as an advantage more than anything else and we’re excited about the idea of having two great GC riders in our organisation. We’ve had it before and we’re determined to try and make it work again.
“We have some type of hierarchy in terms of performance in terms of several different areas, such as the Classics, so not just the Grand Tours. So when you take guys like [Rohan] Dennis, [Greg] Van Avermaet and [Philippe] Gilbert into play you start to look at expanding that leadership role across different boundaries. It’s fun and it’s nice to be in a team where we have a lot of depth. If you look at our results this year we don’t win races with one rider and we’ve won with over ten different guys. We’ve covered all the bases.”
Putting the van Garderen to Trek rumours to bed
During the Tour de France there had been speculation of van Garderen moving from BMC to Trek during the winter. With Porte coming to the team the rumour gained momentum. However, van Garderen has a contract with BMC for 2016 and Ochowicz is confident that the rider he signed from HTC several years ago still has a solid and defined position within the outfit.
“It’s just gossip and I don’t react to gossip. I know what the truth is in our camp and I know what we’re doing and how we do it in terms of contracts,” he said.
“I see Tejay’s long term future at BMC. This is his organisation and he’s part of it. We have a good working relationship and he’s got a great team around him that love riding for him. They’ve proven that and that’s not going to change. This is a good home for him and this is where we want him to be."