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Van Garderen embraces No. 2 role for team at Tour de France

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LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France – For years, Tejay van Garderen has been the United States’ best hope of winning the Tour de France.

But for this edition of the world’s biggest cycling race, Van Garderen is tasked with doing all he can for teammate Richie Porte to fight for the title.

“It’s different. It’s certainly less pressure, and when you have a leader like Richie it’s a role that is easy to jump into,” Van Garderen said on Thursday, two days before the race starts in western France.

Van Garderen’s first job will be to do his part on the team time trial on Stage 3. A good result by BMC would boost Porte’s chances of ending Chris Froome’s dominance at the Tour.

His next challenge as his team’s No. 2 will be to protect Porte on the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees where only the hardiest riders can keep up.

Van Garderen, who finished the Tour of California second in May, showed he can protect Porte in the mountains when he helped the Australian win the Tour de Suisse last month by reeling in rivals when they attacked.

“He already performed well in that role, especially in the Tour de Suisse, when (Mikel) Landa and (Nairo) Quintana launched attacks,” BMC sports director Fabio Baldato told The Associated Press. “It’s a new role but he’s well established within the team.”

When acting as BMC’s leader, Van Garderen finished the Tour in fifth place in 2012 and 2014.

In 2015, he was riding in third place and aiming for a spot on the podium in Paris when he fell ill and was forced to withdraw.

Those ascending results generated expectations that Van Garderen could one day become the first American to cleanly win the Tour since Greg LeMond in 1989 and 1990. Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis were later stripped of their Tour titles for having doped.

But when Porte joined BMC in 2016, the American team said Porte and Van Garderen were the co-leaders at the Tour. Porte finished a career-best fifth in the race, while Van Garderen was 29th. Van Garderen skipped last year’s Tour to ride in the Giro d’Italia.

Baldato said it was the 29-year-old Van Garderen who wanted to play wingman this time around.

“He asked to come to the Tour as a support rider. We call him a teammate `di lusso’ (an extra special teammate),” Baldato told The AP. “The pressure that came with being the leader wasn’t easy to handle. Now that he’s free of that pressure he’s got less weight on his shoulders.

“It will free his mind up and make him ride better.”

Porte knows what it means to be a shield-bearer. He was Froome’s ally when he won his first two Tour titles in 2013 and 2015 for Team Sky.

At 33, Porte also knows this may be his last chance to win an elusive Grand Tour. Last year he was in contention for the Tour until he crashed out.

When asked if he would be prepared to take over if Porte again falters, Van Garderen replied with a curt, “I will do what I am told.

“(Porte) is in great shape and he has a good shot to get on the podium in Paris and I am looking forward to helping him to be able to do that.”

 

Britain’s richest man becomes new sponsor of Team Sky

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LONDON — Britain’s richest man has bought the Team Sky cycling team, which will be renamed Team Ineos.

Jim Ratcliffe, who is the chairman of chemicals giant Ineos, is reported by the Sunday Times rich list as being worth 21 billion dollars (18.5 million euros).

Ineos pledged in a statement on Tuesday to honor all “existing commitments to riders, staff and partners.”

The team’s launch takes place at the Tour de Yorkshire which starts in Doncaster on May 2.

Sky’s long-time team principal Dave Brailsford welcomed the move, saying “it ends the uncertainty around the team” and “represents a huge vote of confidence in our future.”

Sky has won six of the past seven Tour de France races, with Chris Froome winning four times and Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas winning it once.

British broadcaster Sky announced its withdrawal from the sport last December following the European pay TV giant’s takeover by American company Comcast.

Roglic wins Tirreno-Adriatico by one second ahead of Yates

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Primoz Roglic of Slovenia won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race by one second when he beat British rider Adam Yates in the final-stage time trial on Tuesday.

Victor Campenaerts won the 10-kilometer (six-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Roglic, who rides for Team Jumbo-Visma, started the time trial in second place in the overall standings, 25 seconds behind Yates.

“It was unbelievably close. I was lucky in the end,” Roglic said. “I felt strong … I tried to make a difference and really go for it and I really pushed until the finish line.

“I was confident but I can only control myself.”

Yates had been in the lead of the race since the second of the seven stages, while his Mitchelton-Scott team had won the opening-day team time trial.

“It was close, but it wasn’t enough, that’s how it goes, that’s bike racing,” Yates said. “I did the best I could, I said yesterday that 25 seconds isn’t really enough. But I did a good TT, I’ll have to look back but I think the power was good and I held my position for as long as I could.

“There wasn’t much more I could do, the strongest man won, but for sure next year I’ll be back and hopefully I can come back stronger.”

Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark finished third overall, 30 seconds behind Roglic and nearly a minute ahead of Tom Dumoulin.

Campenaerts won the final stage in 11-plus minutes. Alberto Bettiol was three seconds behind the Belgian. Jos van Emden of the Netherlands was four seconds back.