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MONTPELLIER, France (VN) — Rival teams say that Richie Porte is better than his teammate Tejay van Garderen, but that BMC Racing must wait until after the Tour de France’s Mont Ventoux finish Thursday and time trial Friday to decide who will lead its team the rest of the way to Paris.
Porte lost 1:45 due to a puncture in stage 2 and van Garderen failed to follow the GC leaders on Sunday, losing 38 seconds on the first summit finish of this Tour.
Sky’s Chris Froome leads the tightly packed general classification. The top nine are within one minute of the race lead, with van Garderen 11th at 1:01 and Porte 14th at 2:10.
“Who knows who’s leading the team,” Tinkoff sport director Sean Yates said. “It should be Tejay with Richie losing time, but in my opinion, Richie is better than Tejay.
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“I saw that Tejay said he can make time up in the Alps, but I’m not sure how he’s going to do that. I doubt it. Based on what? Obviously, they are following Sky’s moves. The guys with the legs can follow.”
Porte rode clear with Froome, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange), and Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) through the thunderstorms during Sunday’s stage 9. Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) won, but Porte’s work helped distance other stars and van Garderen, who was suffering in the cold.
Van Garderen has twice placed fifth overall at the Tour. Last year, he quit the race with a stomach problem in the final week while sitting third overall. Porte helped Bradley Wiggins and Froome to their Tour de France wins, but he has yet to manage a high placing in the Tour. He took 23rd in 2014 after Froome abandoned.
BMC hired the Australian over the winter to ride alongside van Garderen.
“We’ve not changed our strategy since day one,” BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz said. “We are still on track with the original strategy we put in place, and there’s no reason to change it. Riche’s going well, so is Tejay.
“The weather blocked Tejay a little the other day. That was weather-related, not conditioning.”
Even if they have equal status, teams seem to believe BMC’s new hire is the chosen one.
“Until now, the strongest is clearly Porte,” Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzué said. “Also, history shows us that he’s had big grand tours riding for others.
“I don’t know if the team already decided the leader. Up until now, though, [Porte has] always been near the top two or three riders.”
Added Astana coach Paolo Slongo: “You need to ask them, but what I see is that Porte is going well. He only had that one incident when he punctured.
“I think BMC will have a briefing after Ventoux and the time trial, then they will decide if they will go ahead with two captains or put it all on one.”