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BMC tests two-pronged Tour strategy at Catalunya

BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte are racing together for the first time this season at the Volta a Catalunya.

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Cycling’s newest dynamic duo will race together for the first time this season at the week-long Volta a Catalunya. Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen link up for their first major race since the Tasmanian Porte joined the squad, and expectations are high.

Porte is defending champion, and van Garderen is keen to show off his promising early-season form.

“With Richie and Tejay set to captain, we’re going in very motivated,” said sport director Yvon Ledanois in a team release. “They’ll be supported by a strong group of riders, and it will be a good opportunity for the two of them to race together for the first time.”

BMC Racing has high hopes for the pair racing as a unit. While their schedules will only overlap a few times this season, the real goal is to be hitting the Tour de France with ambitions of outright victory. Team management believes the pair can be stronger together, and Catalunya — which began Monday — presents the first opportunity to see how that strategy can work against a quality field and on a challenging course.

Riding for Sky last year, Porte won in a thrilling battle of time bonuses against Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish star is skipping Catalunya, while teammate Nairo Quintana will make his European debut at the race. Porte said he’s motivated to see what he can do with van Garderen at his side.

“Tejay and I have trained together a fair bit, so it’s nice to finally be able to race together,” Porte said. “It’s also a good chance to get some more race days in the legs following Paris-Nice. It’s a race I know well, and have obviously had success at, so I am hoping this year is no different.”

BMC brings a strong support team that consists of Samuel Sánchez, Brent Bookwalter, Philippe Gilbert (who missed Milano-Sanremo with an illness), Ben Hermans, Rohan Dennis, and Darwin Atapuma. With a superstar start list, Catalunya will see the season’s first major clash among the top GC riders in the peloton.

Van Garderen is hoping to use the form that put him in pole position to win Tirreno-Adriatico before snowy roads forced the cancellation of the “queen stage,” followed by a crash on the final road stage that knocked him out of GC contention.

“It’s a race that suits me well, and we’re going in with a strong team,” van Garderen said. “I didn’t get the opportunity to really test myself on the climbs at Tirreno with the cancellation of the queen stage, so it will be good to do so in Catalunya.”