They say that offense if the best form of defence and in order to ease any speculative tension surrounding the signing of Richie Porte to BMC Racing, Tejay van Garderen has stressed how the Australian’s arrival can be seen as an asset.
Porte has moved from Team Sky to BMC Racing in order to beef up the team’s chances at the Tour de France. Whether Porte and van Garderen can take on Grand Tour winners Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru and Alberto Contador remains to be seen but the dynamic between BMC’s leading pair at least gives the squad two shots at success rather than one.
“Certainly a lot of other teams will be nervous when they see a roster with both me and him on it,” van Garderen told the press at the team’s media day in Denia, Spain.
“I just remember racing against Richie and Geraint Thomas last year in Paris-Nice and it was almost impossible to race against them because Thomas would go up the road and Richie was on my wheel. When I tried to bridge across Richie would go. Now it’s going to be more fun to be part of that, where Richie and I can play a similar game.”
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BMC Racing’s goals for 2016 include winning the Tour de France and finishing in the top three in the UCI team rankings. Two GC contenders can pick up more points than one, obviously, and with Porte arriving a season after Cadel Evans’ retirement, the team have two viable leaders for the stage-racing calendar.
“It gives us another card to play. We’re going to split up the roster a bit in the first part of the year. He’s going to go to the Tour Down Under and I’m going to have a later start with some Spanish races. I’ll do Tirreno but then we’ll link up at Catalunya and Romandie. Then we’ll do the Tour together. We’ll have our chances to get our own results on our own and we’ll try to integrate that together.”
Another perceived added bonus of Porte’s arrival is that the pair can now share the burden of pressure when it comes to Tour de France expectations. The two riders reached out to one another after this year’s Tour - once Porte’s transfer had been confirmed - and their off-road relationship will be just as crucial as their on-road one if they are to maximise their impact at the Tour.
“I really like Richie, and I’ve always got along with him really well. Instead of just being one guy up there, now we can be two. We can work off each other and it shoulders some of the burden of pressure. Richie can carry half that load.”
Personal ambitions at the Tour de France
Van Garderen has unfinished business with the Tour de France after this year’s disappointment. Twice in the top five and once a winner of the white jersey, his career has been focused on the biggest stage race in the world ever since his impressive performance in 2012. He believes that he was in the form of his life during this year’s Tour but illness forced him out when a podium place looked a realistic ambition.
In 2016 van Garderen’s biggest wish should not be for an extra few watts in the mountains or a faster time trial bike, it’s simply to have an injury and illness free campaign.
“You’ve just got to get everything into place, the training, and the good luck throughout the year. I want to try and find those little ‘one percenters’ and then show up ready to go.”
“Usually if I show up with good form I should ride to my full potential but sometimes things get in the way. I just want everywhere I go in 2016, whether it’s a race that I target or not, I want to try and ride to the maximum of my ability.”
Whether BMC Racing can win the Tour de France is a multi-million dollar question, especially given the investment they have made in two potential leaders. Neither van Garderen or Porte have finished on a podium in a Grand Tour but if van Garderen can keep his health there’s no reason to suggest that he can’t make the next step and at least contend for a podium place.
As for winning the race: “You have to aim for the best. If you already go in with the goal that’s less than the victory then you’ve already got in your mind that maybe you’re not good enough. Maybe we are good enough, so why not? Crazier things have happened.”
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