Van Garderen to support Porte at Tour de France

Richie Porte will once again lead the line for BMC Racing at the Tour de France in 2018, while Tejay van Garderen is set to return to the race as one of the Australian's key super-domestiques.

With 48 wins in 2017 and 22 of them at WorldTour level, few would argue BMC Racing had a disappointing season. They shone at the Spring Classics courtesy of Greg Van Avermaet, while Porte chipped in with vital wins before crashing out of the Tour de France in July. Dylan Teuns had a breakthrough season, and Rohan Dennis and the BMC's team time trialing strength also bolstered the stats.

The 2018 campaign will be built on similar foundations. Van Avermaet will have free rein at the Spring Classics, and Porte leads the team's challenge at the Tour de France in July. The most notable shifts include van Garderen drafted as a super-domestique for Porte and Dennis given another chance at the Giro d'Italia. Along with their habitual target of topping the WorldTour rankings, the team will also take aim at the Tour podium.

"We need to get on the podium at the Tour," Jim Ochowicz said during his state-of-the-union style address at the team's camp in Denia, Spain.

"Cadel was our last Tour podium finisher, winning in 2011, and we know how to do it. I understand that you need luck and to have the right athletes lining out for you, but we have the right riders and Richie is our guy to get the job done. Richie is definitely a contender, and he'll start at the Tour Down Under, as he did in 2017. He'll start there with Dennis and Simon Gerrans, so we're going there with a team that's focused on the race. Three of them have won that race in the past."

Porte will be 33 by the time the Tour de France rolls around next year, and this is potentially his last all-out attack on the general classification. He came into the 2017 race as one of the red-hot favourites but crashed out in dramatic fashion on stage 9 to Chambery.

His only race appearance after that came at a criterium in Japan, but the first half of 2017 saw him win the Tour Down Under, Tour de Romandie and finish second at the Criterium du Dauphine. With his first child on the way in May, his race programme has still to be decided, but after Tour Down Under he is likely to repeat his 2017 programme of Paris-Nice, Romandie and the Dauphine.

"For me as a cyclist to get on the podium of the Tour de France would be a dream. Obviously the higher up the podium the better, but I don't think I'd take third at the Tour de France now if you offered it to me," he told Cyclingnews in a soon-to-be-released podcast interview.

The Australian and his team used the off-season to try recruit stronger riders to support their ambitions at the Tour de France. However, with no firm plans for 2019, Ochowicz was only able to offer one-year deals to prospective targets. It meant that Mikel Nieve - who the team focused on as a leading transfer target – signed with Orica-Scott on a two-year contract.

That said, van Garderen is set to ride in the Tour for the first time since 2016. The American was shifted to the Giro this year but crumbled in the mountains before rescuing his race with a vital stage win. He took 10th at the Vuelta a Espana, but with a shortage of climbers, and with van Garderen not entirely trusted to currently lead in a Grand Tour, the American heads to the Tour in a support role.

"I think we can fill the void with Tejay coming in to help with the Tour," Porte said.

Van Garderen is set to change more than just his race schedule next season. His wife and two young daughters are moving from the United States to Girona, Spain, in a bid to create a home environment in Europe.

"I'm not going to say that this is going to fix everything or be the key," the American told Cyclingnews. "But I was spending a lot of time away from the family, and when they would come and visit they would be in a jetlagged state. It wasn't working, trying to live on two different continents. I was thrilled when they would come over, but it was tough and it was hard when they would leave. I think that this will solve a lot of the issues that came up and how it was lonely to be on my own in an apartment in France. It's going to be great to have that family support network in Europe.

"I can't promise anything for next year, but all I can say is that I'm motivated to do my best. This commitment we're making shows how serious my family are about my career. If I can do the work and have the passion and support, it's going to work out."

The rest of Porte's Tour de France team is still unclear. Van Avermaet and Stefan Kung are likely starters, along with Gerrans, Nicolas Roche and the dependable Damiano Caruso. Cyclingnews understands that Dennis is also on the long-list that will be whittled down during the season.

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