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Stating he is over a stone lighter than he was twelve months ago, Richie Porte has said he has got over the disappointment of a season frustrated by illness and is raring to go for 2015.
Any thoughts that the Australian’s morale might still be dented after an at-times difficult year have been dismissed, with the Team Sky rider saying that he is highly motivated to turn things around and show what he can do.
“Probably the only good thing about having a bad year is that it does make you hungrier,” the 29 year old said in an interview with TeamSky.com.
“It was a rough season. It started well and I was where I needed to be in January and February, but I got sick a few times which meant I didn’t had the most straightforward year. In October I came off a month of antibiotics and I feel much, much better.
“I’m coming into this period seven kilos lighter than I was at this time last year. I’m definitely ready to go and ready to really step it up. I’d love to have a big year.”
Porte looked on course for a strong season when he finished third in the national road race championships in January and then went on to win a stage and place fourth in the Santos Tour Down Under. He followed those performances up with second in the Vuelta a Andalucia, but then had several months where his health complicated things vis-à-vis his results.
He rode well early in Tirreno-Adriatico but was a non-starter on stage five. He also withdrew from the Volta a Catalunya, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de Romandie, then made the decision not to ride the Giro d’Italia. He had been scheduled to lead the Sky team in that event but felt his health issues had complicated his build-up too much.
Porte went on to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné as his final race prior to the Tour de France. He helped Chris Froome there and, after netting 22nd overall, was expected to ride for the Briton and defending champion in the Grand Tour.
However Froome dropped out after a series of crashes, handing leadership over to the Australian. He initially responded well, sitting second overall after the halfway point, but later cracked and slid down the classification. He ended the race 61st in Paris and called an early stop to his season.
“Obviously the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the Tour is hard enough as it is without throwing in some sickness,” he reflected. “It was a disaster when Chris went home but the form I had going into the Tour was quite good.
“I got through the rough stuff – which was basically the first 12 stages – sitting second on GC. That was the dream as it’s always been my ambition to finish on the podium in the Tour, but then it turned into a nightmare. Obviously I think about it as a missed opportunity, but you’ve got to get on with it.”
While Froome managed to return to good form in the Vuelta a España and eventually placed second overall, the season as a whole was disappointing for Sky. Porte is philosophical about it, saying that sometimes things simply don’t work out.
“We had two years of massive success. It’s almost like we needed to have this year,” he said. “But we’ve also had a lot of bad luck – with Geraint (Thomas) at Paris-Nice, Sergio (Henao’s) crash, myself, Yogi (Ian Stannard) and Froomey. It hasn’t been a straightforward year.
“I guess it’s hard to measure luck, but we’ve had our fair share of bad. It just makes everyone doubly determined to have a great season next year.”
His recovery from physical setbacks and mental disappointment has come after he took time away from racing and allowed his batteries to recharge. He has spent time in both Europe and Tasmania, doing gym work, swimming and walking in Monaco.
Because his season ended earlier than expected, he returned sooner to cycling than in other off-seasons. He has spent some time climbing, ascending the Col de la Madone and thus being able to gauge his form as it builds.
He later returned to Tasmania, taking advantage of the better weather there and has been doing mountain biking on newly-constructed trails.
He sounds optimistic as he looks towards 2015. “Together with the team we’ve done some great work on the time trial bike and I feel much more comfortable now,” he stated.
“I feel really happy with where we’re at. Little things like that will all help. I’ve got a great new girlfriend and it’s nice to build up to a new year in a different frame of mind.”