Richie Porte helped BMC Racing to the win on the opening day of the 2018 Tour de Suisse. The Australian was part of the seven-man team that out-powered several squads including Team Sunweb and Quick-Step Floors to win the 18.3km team time trial on Saturday.
The win ensured that BMC had their revenge after defeat in the corresponding event at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this week with Stefan Küng leading the squad over the line to take the first yellow jersey of the race. Porte crossed the line in second place to complete his first competitive outing since finishing third overall at the Tour de Romandie in late April.
"This is a great way to start the race. I think that Stefan Küng today was absolutely incredible. He did the lion's share of the work and we've now got a nice gap on GC. In terms of my form, I've had a good block of time at home and I've concentrated on my training. That's meant that I've been a bit tired coming into this race, but I'm looking forward to the mountain stages," Porte told Cyclingnews at the finish in Frauenfeld.
Porte's time away from racing in between Romandie and Suisse coincided with the birth of his first child. He remained at his base in Monaco in recent weeks to be with his wife in the final weeks of her pregnancy, and the welcome news of the birth was still fresh in the rider's thoughts as he headed away from the podium and back to the BMC team bus.
"A little baby boy arrived last Saturday and that was the most incredible thing. I found new respect for my wife watching it. It was absolutely brutal, but it really puts things into perspective when you have your first newborn. It's the best thing that's ever happened."
Away from his home life, Porte is well aware that the Tour de France is just around the corner. He and his teammates watched Saturday's Dauphine stage on the team bus before embarking on their own TTT effort in Suisse, and the Australian knows that a number of Grand Tour rivals are beginning to find their groove at the right time.
"On the bus, we've watched the Dauphine and obviously guys like Geraint Thomas are flying. Vincenzo Nibali is where he needs to be, and he's better than what he's probably shown in past Dauphines. There are signs that there are strong guys in that race, but there are strong guys here too, like Nairo Quintana and Simon Spilak. It's going to be hard work."
The Tour de Suisse concludes a week after the Dauphine, and with the Tour de France shifted a week to accommodate the FIFA World Cup, several Tour rivals have chosen Suisse roads to tweak and shape their form rather than ASO's Dauphine equivalent.
At the TTT in Frauenfeld, a number of rivals suggested that they had arrived at Suisse undercooked in a bid to save their best form for the final week of the Tour de France, which is still over six weeks from now. Porte, who has never competed in the Tour de Suisse, admitted that his main focus was on winning and that holding back form was not his main priority.
"I'd love to be flying and I'd love to win this race. I was flying at the Dauphine last year and made it half-way through the Tour. You have to take good form when it comes."
While Porte and his teammates celebrated their triumph, there was no getting away from the fact that BMC Racing's future is far from certain. There are no contracts for riders or staff beyond this year, and the team's management are still searching for additional funding.
Reports indicate that there is around 14-16 million euros in the pot - well short of the current team's finances – and that riders are beginning to sign with other teams. Porte would not give a yes or no answer when asked if he already had a plan B lined up - perhaps because officially riders cannot sign UCI contracts before August 1.
"There's no beating around the bush. You can't deny it. It is crunch time," he said, reiterating his sentiments from earlier in the year.
"I really have my fingers crossed that this team continues because it's Andy Rihs' legacy and it would be a shame if it was to finish. I have a fantastic manager in Andrew McQuaid, who is the best in the business. He's doing his work behind the scenes. I'm confident. I ride my bike."
He rides his bike, but we're still none the wiser as to which team's colours he will be racing in next season.
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