• He's ridden for the best Grand Tour riders - but can he now become one of the best? (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The deal had long been done. But come next July, will the teaming of Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen at BMC Racing lead to a united force, or a disparate one?
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8 Aug 2015 - 7:57 PM  UPDATED 9 Aug 2015 - 2:28 AM

"I want to win races like Paris-Nice and Catalunya again and I think next year at the Tour de France, why not have Tejay van Garderen and me there?"

In the first official team release involving the 30-year-old Tasmanian, do you really think he would have made such a bold statement without first consulting team management?

Unless van Garderen finishes first or second in this year's Vuelta a España, which, I think you'll agree, is a rather long shot, the BMC Racing Team strategy at next year's Tour is, as far as one can tell, dual-pronged.

"In this modern-day milieu of marginal gains, seven riders having to look after two leaders - against the one for all, all for one, strategy adopted by Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, and, for the past two seasons, van Garderen, too - sounds like a tall proposition, particularly in the perenially fraught opening week of La Grande Boucle."

Last weekend, when the announcement came that Porte would join the team, Jim Ochowicz, the team's president and general manager, also provided a tacit clue, apart from the obvious "he gives us extra muscle and a wealth of experience" blah: "It also gives us the chance to separate and/or unite our strategies and goals as we see fit throughout the season."

So then, will it be Tejay and Richie or Richie and Tejay?

van Garderen's surprise exit at this year's Tour, just five days from Paris while lying third overall, has certainly tipped the balance in the Tasmanian's favour - but only so far as to warrant a co-leadership role next July.

The fact remains that Porte is still an unknown quantity when it comes to Grand Tour leadership. He has all the attributes to win a Grand Tour, that much we already know; the question marks revolve around his qualities as a leader and regularity of performance over 21 stages. "Where does he need to improve? Probably in consistency," this year's Tour champion said of Porte. "To be able to look at a three-week race (you need) to roll with the bad days as well as the good days."

His debut Grand Tour remains his best overall result in a three-week race: seventh overall and best young rider at the 2010 Giro d'Italia. By the time July of 2016 comes around, that statistic, noteworthy as it is, will be more than six years old.

Aside from this year's Giro, which he abandoned on the sixteenth leg, citing a leg injury from a crash four days previous, Porte has ridden seven other Grand Tours at the service of others. He has been a vital cog in the success of those who he's ridden for - Froome, Bradley Wiggins, Alberto Contador - and in so doing, he's not only ridden with the best, but learned from the best.

Does that mean that he, too, can one day be the best?

Well, that's what we are, and he is, about to find out...

Still, I'm not convinced a two-pronged approach will work.

In this modern-day milieu of marginal gains, seven riders having to look after two leaders - against the one for all, all for one, strategy adopted by Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, and, for the past two seasons, van Garderen, too - sounds like a tall proposition, particularly in the perenially fraught opening week of La Grande Boucle.

Remember, van Garderen was granted outright leadership in part because he and Cadel Evans didn't gel. Okay, it was nothing like Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond at the 1986 Tour or Contador and Lance Armstrong in 2009, and the 2011 Tour winner's demise as a bona fide contender helped seal the deal for Tejay - but it wasn't the only reason.

And if you thought Movistar was hedging its bets, then you weren't watching this past July: Alejandro Valverde quashed any doubts about his ability to play second fiddle; for me, he was the domestique de luxe of the 2015 Tour, and was largely responsible for Quintana getting so close, and almost toppling, Froome, the eventual winner. I still believe they could have won the race on the day to La Toussuire, when Eusebio Unzué's boys had Sky on the ropes.

Nevertheless, as long as the Kenyan-born Brit remains at Team Sky, barring misfortune, Porte was never going to have the chance to be a leader at Le Grand Shindig, and judging from that initial quote, that's exactly what he wants.

Assuming he and van Garderen arrive in Normandy fighting fit on July 2 next year, the road will largely determine who will lead BMC Racing in the decisive third week.

I just wonder, in the face of such fierce opposition, whether two heads are better than one.