Road

BMC aims to hit repeat button in 2018, with a twist

BMC Racing wants to repeat its gilded 2017 season with another monument win, but Tour de France yellow remains dream goal.

DENIA, Spain (VN) — BMC Racing is hoping to hit the repeat button for 2018, with one significant difference.

The U.S.-registered team would love to repeat a monument win as well as the individual WorldTour title (both by Greg Van Avermaet), along with the 48 UCI wins it enjoyed in 2017, but it would like to swap out its Tour de France result with what it did in 2011. Cadel Evans won the yellow jersey that year. BMC believes Richie Porte can do it in 2018.

“We are aiming for the Tour de France podium,” said BMC Racing boss Jim Ochowicz. “And if a few things go Richie’s way, we know he could win it.”

Porte crashed out of the Tour early. The team still believes it has one of the few legitimate Tour contenders on its roster with the veteran Tasmanian. Porte stepped up in 2017, winning Tour Down Under and Tour de Romandie before crashing out in the Tour.

For 2018, Porte believes he can challenge Chris Froome (Sky) at the Tour.

“I am ready to go again,” Porte said Monday. “Emotionally, it was hard to take. The injuries could have been much worse, so you have to take the good and bad. It does motivate me more going into next year.”

BMC Racing gathered on the Mediterranean coast to take stock of 2017 and recalibrate for the coming campaign. The team has been coming to the same hotel near Denia for seven years. It’s familiar terrain. The years change, but the goals remain largely the same. BMC wants to be among the elite of the peloton.

It’s a new challenge, however. BMC Racing reduces its roster from 29 to 24, in large part in response to new rules calling for eight-rider grand tour squads. It still aims for success, setting its sights on winning another monument, focusing on the WorldTour ranking and team time trial titles, plus building for another run at the Tour. Staying at the top is never easy.

“Our ambitions haven’t changed — we aim to be among the top teams in the sport,” Ochowicz said. “We feel as organization we know how to [win the Tour]. You have to have a bit of luck and the right athlete, and we do, with Richie Porte. We are going to put ourselves all-in. Richie is very capable, and he’s on a list of less than 10 people in the world who can win the Tour. Richie is a contender.”

BMC is still flying high from Van Avermaet’s monument win at Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian superstar hopes to build off his breakout campaign that included an incredible run across the spring classics. Once known as the eternal second-place, Van Avermaet finally earned an elusive monument at Paris-Roubaix.

“I want to win Flanders. That’s the race that fits me best,” Van Avermaet said. “I think I could have won had we not crashed. It’s the race that motivates me more. Of course, if I never win Flanders, I won’t say my career won’t be complete. But I want to win it.”

Behind the headline riders are a slew of names looking to find their places. Newcomers like Simon Gerrans, Jurgen Roelandts, and Alberto Bettiol will have chances, while Patrick Bevin is tapped for his potential.

Others looking to step up this year include Stefan Küng and Dylan Theuns, both riders who’ve been nipping at the edge of breakout success.

Tejay van Garderen is also hoping to get his career back on track following a rough patch. In 2017, he won his first grand tour stage at the Giro and finished in the top-10 at the Vuelta. After missing the Tour in 2017 despite punching to fifth in two previous editions, van Garderen is penciled in to return to the French grand tour.

“I will go to the Tour with the idea of being Richie’s helper,” van Garderen said. “I have to prove myself again. There are some other races where I can be the team captain, and at the Tour, I’ll be there for Richie. I’m OK with that.”

With BMC, Van Avermaet looks to be a guarantee in the spring classics. Porte still needs to deliver on his potential. In a sport where the Tour is the ultimate measuring stick, anything short of a final podium will be a disappointment.