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Tour de France

Van Garderen shelves personal ambitions at Tour to help Porte

The American's role has shifted from targeting the yellow jersey to helping his teammate try to win it.

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LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen is aiming for the Tour de France podium this year, yet instead him it’s for his BMC Racing teammate Richie Porte.

Van Garderen, twice a top-5 finisher at the Tour, is shelving his personal ambitions and is fully committed to BMC’s podium push with the Tasmanian Porte.

“When you have a leader like Richie, it’s a role that’s easy to jump into to,” van Garderen said Thursday. “Richie is in great shape and he has a good shot to get on the podium in Paris, and I am looking forward to helping him do that.”

For 2018, there is no “Plan B” for van Garderen. And he’s fine with that.

“I will do what I am told,” van Garderen said. “I feel good. I wouldn’t be coming here if I didn’t think I was in shape.” [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”left” tag=”Tour-de-France”]

Six years ago, van Garderen was the ascendant rider at BMC when he finished fifth overall and won the best young rider’s jersey in his second Tour start. Many tapped him as the best American Tour prospect of his generation. He equaled that result in 2014, but he’s since struggled to match those results at the Tour.

Growing frustrated with a lack of progress, BMC signed Porte to take over the mantle of leadership in 2016. In theory, they co-captained the GC in that year’s Tour, but Porte has been the centerpiece of the team’s Tour ambitions since his arrival.

Last year, van Garderen skipped the Tour for the first time since his 2011 debut to race the Giro d’Italia, where he won his first career grand tour stage and then the Vuelta a España. After publicly doubting his GC future, van Garderen came out of last year with his grand tour ambitions fully emboldened.

Van Garderen is back at the Tour with his role and ambitions clearly defined, which are to help Porte when he can.

“I am glad I am back,” he said. “I was watching it on TV last year. When you’re in the race you don’t realize how big it is, but when you’re watching it, you realize that this really is the pinnacle of cycling. To miss the Tour … felt weird.”

For Porte, he arrives at the Tour in what he says is the best condition of his career. Backed by a strong team for both the flats and the mountains, Porte is aiming for the Tour podium for the first time of his career.

“I’m super motivated for this Tour,” Porte said. “I hope for good luck and no bad luck on the road.”

Good luck for Porte would mean that van Garderen will remain committed to his helper’s role. There’s no room for a Plan B, at least not if Porte can keep rubber to the ground.