• Richie Porte's next assignment on the road to the Tour de France is the Tour of Oman (AAP)Source: AAP
Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will race almost exclusively together this season in preparation for the Tour de France, where they are set to line up as co-leaders for BMC.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
16 Feb 2016 - 10:10 AM 

The 31-year-old will start the Tour of Oman as a sole team contender after which he will pair with fellow maillot jaune aspirant van Garderen up to and including July.

Dual team leadership at the Tour de France is a subject of conjecture that some say doesn’t work but Porte is thinking differently.

“Tejay and I we’ve done a fair bit of riding together in the off-season so there’s no problems there,” he said in Muscat, Oman. “We’re on the same page and he’s quite a good friend now as well so I’m sure when I get back to Nice I’ll be doing a lot of training with him.

“We’re on the same race programme until the Tour de France, other than here, so I think we’re only going to get closer and learn how to ride together.”

Porte has been training in his native Tasmania since his season debut at the Tour Down Under in which he won the queen stage on Willunga and finished second overall.

Sporting a deep tan on the eve of the Tour of Oman, he said he was unsure of his form coming into the six-stage event where he will face former Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep).

Race organiser Eddy Merckx has said this year’s course has been designed to see changes in race leadership with even day one being potentially decisive to overall standings. Porte acknowledged the sentiment but is set, like at the Santos Tour Down Under, to hedge his bets on the queen stage at Green Mountain.

“We’ve got Greg Van Avermaet who is going to try and win a stage but for me I’m not so sure. Obviously I’ve done Green Mountain before, I know how hard that is so I’d like to take my chances on that but whether it’s still for GC I’m not sure,” he said.

“(The) Tour Down Under to be honest I was surprised to be second on GC and win the Willunga stage. I didn’t really expect that. It was all about being relaxed in January for me this year so I learnt that even though I hadn’t done as much of the work as I did last year I still came away with good results.”

End of the road for Tour of Oman?
The Muscat Municipality will decide the future of the Tour of Oman after the seventh edition that starts Tuesday.

Porte has been working with new BMC trainer David Bailey following a long stint under the guidance of head of athlete performance Tim Kerrison at former team Sky.

“David is English and Tim is an Aussie. They’re two quite different coaches but they’re both good at what they do. The thing is I’m really happy and confident working with David,” he said.

“David said to me while I was in Tassie just ride my bike and enjoy it so that’s what I’ve been doing. But I think anybody that’s been there (Tasmania) knows how tough the riding is. You benefit just from being out riding your bike doing the basic kilometres.”

Porte said he has adopted a more stress-free approach to the season with his major objectives in the Tour and a berth at the Rio Olympic Games falling later than the Giro d’Italia he prepared for rigidly in 2015.

“This time last year was full gas efforts. I haven’t had to do any of that this year, other than one up Willunga,” he said. “I don’t feel that much pressure coming into this race. It’s nice to be here and break the trip up from Australia. We’ll just take it as it comes.”

SBS will make 30 minutes of daily highlights from the 2016 Tour of Oman available OnDemand at the Cycling Central website after the race starts on 16 February.