Richie Porte is racing his final grand tour in a BMC Racing jersey. Watching with interest is everyone inside the Trek-Segafredo bus, Porte’s new professional home next season.
Trek boss Luca Guercilena said Porte’s arrival will help the team take on such powerhouses as Team Sky and Movistar during the Tour de France and the season’s other major stage races.
“Having Richie and Bauke [Mollema] is already good for us,” Guercilena said. “Adding a guy like Richie will be helpful for us because he has clear goals in mind and Bauke is still competitive.”
Porte, 33, moves to Trek-Segafredo on a two-year deal in what’s one of the biggest transfers for 2019. After some bad luck in the past few editions of the Tour, the Australian is hoping new surroundings will help him make a final push for the Tour podium.
So far during the Vuelta a España, Porte has steadily been improving his form after breaking a clavicle at the Tour with ambitions to be competitive at the world championships. Guercilena and Co. are certainly hoping he will be back in fighting shape for 2019.
“The whole second week’s been hard,” Porte said Sunday. “I feel better now than I did. Obviously I am not quite where I need to be, but it’s a hard race to come and try and find form. We’ll see what happens in the next week.”
Some were surprised not to see a few of Porte’s loyal workers move across with him from BMC Racing, but Guercilena said Porte will see strong support in the Tour’s mountains with riders such as Mollema, Gianluca Brambilla, and Jarlinson Pantano. Newcomer Will Clarke, who rode with Leopard-Trek in 2011, will also be one of Porte’s helpers.
“We will be stronger next year and that will help Richie,” Guercilena said. “We have seen year by year, cycling is very difficult to win alone. You need a strong team and strong teammates. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone. Sky is the proof. They help each other and everyone gets their own results. The level is so high right now that by yourself it is very difficult to win alone.”
Where does Porte’s arrival leave Mollema, who joined the team in 2015 as a GC leader?
Rather than seeing Porte’s arrival as somewhat of a snub, Mollema said he is excited about racing alongside Porte in whichever capacity that may be.
“We haven’t spoken too much about how we will split the calendar. I am happy he is coming to the team,” Mollema said. “Richie is one of the best, especially in the one-week races. We’ve seen what he’s done the past few years. He is an amazing rider and I am looking forward to racing with him next year.”
Trek signed Mollema in 2015 with the hope he could emerge as a Tour podium contender. In his first season with the team, he rode to an encouraging seventh overall. In 2016, Mollema rode into podium range with second overall after stage 18, but a crash on wet roads knocked him down to 11th overall. Last year, Alberto Contador led the way on the GC and Mollema raced to seventh overall at the Giro d’Italia and played stage-hunter in the Tour, winning stage 15. This July, he was 26th.
“We will talk calendars in December,” Guercilena said. “We know Richie is strong in one-week races and the Tour. We will discuss with Bauke if he wants to go to the Giro for GC or chase stages in the Tour. What you need right now is the most competitive riders to be in the Tour. Especially riders who have capacity for the GC.”
Guercilena is also hopeful that new arrivals Iván Sosa, a Colombian climber making his WorldTour debut next year, and promising Italian sprinter Matteo Moschetti will bolster the team’s future.
The classics squad will remain intact with John Degenkolb, Jasper Stuyven, and Mads Pedersen. Guercilena confirmed that Kiel Reijnen will remain while talks are ongoing with Peter Stetina. Gregory Daniel is not expected to return to the team in 2019.
“We believe we will be quite balanced on the different goals we have,” he said. “We hope to be competitive everywhere.”