Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Richie Porte said he would welcome the addition of Vincenzo Nibali to the Trek-Segafredo squad next year, adding that it would not change his role as a Grand Tour contender.
Nibali, whose three-year contract with Bahrain-Merida ends this year, is rumored to have agreed to a two-year contract with the American squad beginning in 2020. The 34-year-old Italian, currently racing at the Giro d’Italia, has won all three Grand Tours, with two Giro victories, as well as Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia, winning the latter on two occasions. He’s currently sitting third overall after four stages.
Porte, also 34, joined Trek-Segafredo this year as the team’s Grand Tour leader after three seasons spent with BMC Racing. He’s currently racing the Amgen Tour of California for the first time in his career, and spoke with CyclingTips in Sacramento before the race began on Sunday.
“For me, I’ve always gotten along with Vincenzo,” Porte said. “For me, [Nibali joining the team] would be great. I think we can work well together. We’re kind of the same age, so I think it’ll work well. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. You hear all the stories in the press, and for the moment they’re just rumors, but for me, if it was to happen, I’m fine.”
After four years spent riding in support of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at Team Sky, Porte left for BMC Racing in 2016 to strike out on his own as a Tour de France team leader. However his three years at BMC were fraught with crashes, illness, and mechanical incidents.
He finished fifth overall at the 2016 Tour, and likely would have been on the podium if not for a late puncture on the second stage, where he lost 1:45. He crashed out of the race in both 2017 and 2018, and closed out his time with BMC by toiling through the Vuelta a España last September, where he finished 84th and never cracked a top-35 finish on any of the 21 stages before he withdrew his name from consideration for the road world championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
Porte’s record in weeklong stage races was much better during his time with BMC. In 2017, he won the Santos Tour Down Under and Tour de Romandie, and in 2018 he won the Tour de Suisse. In 2015, his final season with Team Sky, he won Paris-Nice, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino.
The Tasmanian’s first season with Trek-Segafredo started out strong, with second overall and a stage win at the Santos Tour Down Under followed by fifth overall at the Herald Sun Tour, but he’s suffered with illness since and did not finish in the top-10 of a stage at UAE Tour or Volta Cicilista a Catalunya.
It was around the same period that Porte was struggling with illness that rumors began swirling that Nibali had agreed to move to Trek-Segafredo next year. When asked if he felt that Nibali coming to Trek-Segafredo would threaten his own position as a Grand Tour contender, Porte answered, “No, not really,” adding that Nibali would certainly slot into the team’s primary role.
“Obviously if that’s the case, he’s the number one, he’s won everything, he’s won Grand Tours, he’s won one-day races, he’s got an incredible palmares,” Porte said. “But I don’t think it changes a hell of a lot for me. There are still going to be opportunities as well.”
On Monday’s stage from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe, the first GC test of this Amgen Tour of California, Porte finished 15th, 31 seconds behind stage winner Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step).
“I’m always motivated, but it’s not been a great start, with getting sick, continually changing race programs, this is not how I wanted to start with Trek-Segafredo.,” Porte said. “It’s not as simple as just wanting it and having it, but I am motivated.”